Thoughts on Senator Kerry’s Speech


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Senator John Kerry’s recent speech to World Bank staff, which a colleague reported on earlier, was clear and powerful. He said that the development challenges of the 21st century cannot be delivered by international financial institutions with 20th century structures and priorities. He could have not have started his speech better that he did—with a call for the governance of these institutions to reflect today’s transformed global economic landscape and a merit-based staff selection system from bottom to top.  

In our work and experience at the World Bank, we see significant links between the three main challenges that Kerry outlined (empowering women, enhancing food security, and addressing climate change). Even as my agriculture colleagues focus on the nexus between climate change and food security, there is mounting evidence of a disproportionate burden on women from climate-related risks. 

Senator Kerry’s suggestion to tackle energy poverty and climate change together, as “two sides of the same coin,” resonates with the twin objectives of the World Bank Group’s proposed new energy strategy posted for global consultation. I also noted his enthusiasm about the initiatives that we have embarked on under our Strategic Framework on Development and Climate Change, such as carbon accounting and analysis of alternatives, including environmental externalities, for thermal power projects; and helping countries to analyze low-carbon growth options. The Bank has been supporting low-carbon growth studies in several countries.

Senator Kerry called on the Bank to exercise leadership in addressing climate change through its work in developing countries while acknowledging that his country has not been able to lead and deliver its part. While outlining a powerful vision of what a development bank of the 21th century should focus on, I trust he meant what he said about the importance of giving more proportionate voice and representation to developing countries. The senator’s vision for the World Bank is a valuable contribution to the collective thinking of our multilateral institution. Now it is the turn of developing countries—who will shape this century’s economy and climate and who will be the ultimate judges of our relevance, to articulate theirs.


Kseniya Lvovsky

Former Climate Change Program Manager Climate Change Team, Environment Department

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November 23, 2009

Copenhagen is looking more and more like a potentially disastrous catastrophe should the US and Chinese Administrations fail to commit to making significant changes. None of us want it to fail, but even the organisers are now beginning to thing of contingencies...

Don't shoot me.....
November 25, 2009

Are others concerned at all about the cheerleading around climate change, and the potential risks to WB reputation of wholesale acceptance of the "consensus"? Two major issues suggest some caution would be in order, rather than wholesale disappointment about Copenhagen.

First, the climate models have failed to predict the recent decade-plus of cooling. Surely they require adjustment, and conclusions based on those models require adjustment, too. Is the current science too uncertain a base on which to rework the global economy?

Second, the revelations from the CRU emails are astonishing, they highlight that some of the science we do have has been corrupted through manipulation of data, exclusion of consensus-contradicting research, and manipulation of the peer review process. Inputs to the IPCC came through CRU.

As I glance at the "Statistics" box on this page: "50% of global carbon emissions were emitted by high income countries in 2005." I wonder why we can't indicate how much of global GDP was produced by those emissions. Are we highlighting a distribution of goods problem? Do we infer that those who produce are somehow guilty? Or look at the promotion of the "100 ideas to save the planet". How about a link to a clear eyed look at nuclear power instead? I worry there may be too much groupthink and not enough encouragement of other voices. As contradictory data has entered the debate, the WB should consider a more cautious stance.