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Rachel Kyte's blog

Business Leaders & Finance Ministers Changing the Conversation to Drive Clean Investment

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Executives from Alstom, the Swedish pension fund AP4, Deutsche Bank, and the French pension fund ERAFP joined finance ministers for an informal climate ministerial discussion about carbon pricing during this year's World Bank Group/IMF Annual Meetings. After the meeting, Rachel Kyte, the World Bank Group's vice president & special envoy for climate change, described the conversation and some of the takeaways.

The Longer World Waits to Address Climate Change, the Higher the Cost

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Climate change ministerial, IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings 2014In September, the world’s top scientists said the human influence on climate was clear. Last month, they warned of increased risks of a rapidly warming planet to our economies, environment, food supply, and global security. Today, the latest report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) describes what we need to do about it.

The report, focused on mitigation, says that global greenhouse gas emissions were rising faster in the last decade than in the previously three, despite reduction efforts.  Without additional mitigation efforts, we could see a temperature rise of 3.7 to 4.8 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times by the end of this century. The IPCC says we can still limit that increase to 2 degrees, but that will require substantial technological, economic, institutional, and behavioral change.

Let’s translate the numbers. For every degree rise, that equates to more risk, especially for the poor and most vulnerable.

Climate Action Now: Building Scalable Solutions

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Farmer Hai Huynh Van is helping test drought- and flood-resilient rice varieties in Vietnam. G.Smith/CIATWith its scenarios of increasing risks as a result of climate change – from sea level rise to disappearing fish populations, food insecurity, and forest diebacks from extreme heat – the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) paints a picture of a complicated future where no one gets by unscathed, where existing vulnerabilities are exacerbated, and where, as Fred Pearce so aptly puts it, we need to “prepare for the worst.”
 
But, as the scientists rightly point out, it doesn’t have to be like this.

A Coalition of the Working – That’s What the Oceans Need

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Los océanos nos necesitan


​What is it about oceans? Ocean events seem to be getting bigger and broader in their participation. No matter whether the people in the room are representing government, seafood companies, private foundations, or conservation groups, they are unified by one thing: the need for serious action and soon.

Needed: Pragmatic Energy Leadership for a Livable Future

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Beijing Smog. Ilya Haykinson/Flickr Creative CommonsRight now, as you read this, wherever you are, we are in uncharted territory. Our global population of 7.1 billion is headed for more than 9 billion by 2050. With our growing numbers and aspirations for shared prosperity comes a growing demand for energy to power homes, businesses, industry and transport. Our continuing reliance on fossil fuels is generating pollution and a dangerously high amount of greenhouse gas emissions – this past summer, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere passed levels not seen in 3 million years.

If you were in Beijing last week, you felt the impact in your lungs: Just 16 days into the new year, the city woke up to its first “airpocalypse” of 2014, the latest in a series of dangerously high smog days. Beijing’s mayor announced plans the same day to cut coal use by 2.6 million tons and ban heavily polluting vehicles.

That was an important local step, and we are seeing forward-thinking cities and national governments make similar moves as they develop the architecture for a cleaner, low-carbon future.

Growing Enough Nutritious Food Amid Climate Change

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 C.Schubert/CCAFSInternational Green Week in Berlin, the world's largest exhibition for agriculture, food, and horticulture, is the sort of place where you can taste food from all over the world, see animals of all shapes and sizes (ever heard of a Pustertaler Schecken?), and explore the latest innovations in GPS-guided agricultural machinery. The event attracts not only 400,000 curious visitors, it also draws global decision-makers from government, the private sector, science, and civil society, including some 70 ministers of agriculture.

Established in 1926, this event could probably make a reasonable claim that it has seen it all before.  But, of course, it hasn’t. This year, the focus was on resilience.

The already present impacts of climate change are demanding innovation and partnership in agriculture on a scale never seen before.  It is not an academic discussion about some uncertain future – it is posing challenges to farmers today, and it’s having an impact on their bottom lines.

The Good News and Bad News on Agriculture and Climate Change

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 CGIAR Climate.I have recently returned from the United Nations climate talks that were held in Warsaw, Poland, and I have both good and bad news.
 
The bad news is that delegates opted to delay again discussions of agriculture. This decision, given agriculture’s substantial and well-documented contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, reveals the discomfort negotiators still feel around the science and priorities of what we consider “climate-smart agriculture”.
 
The decision to postpone is short-sighted when we consider the potential agriculture has to become part of the global solution. Agriculture is the only sector that can not only mitigate, but also take carbon out of the atmosphere. It has the potential to substantially sequester global carbon dioxide emissions in the soils of croplands, grazing lands and rangelands.
 
The good news is that there are steps we can take to make agriculture part of the solution. Importantly the discussions with farmers on how to improve incomes and yields, to serve the nutritional content of the food we grow, are our key focus. But we can at the same time improve resilience of food systems and achieve emissions reductions.

Plump Goats and Pawpaws: A Story of Climate-Smart Farming in Kenya

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John Obuom
John Obuom and Poline Achieng’ Omondi are talking about their goats to a group of visitors that includes me. Turns out, cross-breeding local goats with Gala goats increases size, and cross-breeding Red Massai sheep with local sheep increases tolerance to heat and parasites. The result is a dramatically growing family income. Local goats fetch the equivalent of $20 at the markets; the improved goats bring in $80-90. The goats on the Obuom farm are noticeably plump and big for their age.
 
But that’s not the only benefit of the climate-smart techniques that John is describing. Milk production has tripled, leaving enough milk for the family and plenty left over to sell; flood and rainwater ponds reduce erosion and provide year-round water for irrigation; improved maize crops have increased disease-tolerance and productivity; intercropping pawpaw trees and food crops maximizes land use and more than doubles profits.  A small woodlot provides income and fertilizes the soil.
 
The countryside around the Obuom farm, where I was traveling last week, is not rich. The landscape is scarred by deep gullies caused by soil erosion. Half the people live below the poverty line; and malnutrition affects 45 percent of children under the age of five. Climate change and the resultant increasingly unpredictable rainfall will make this land even tougher to farm. Over the next 70 years, climate change could reduce food crop yieldsby as much as 16 percent worldwide and up to 28 percent in Africa. Yet climate-smart approaches are giving farmers better options and helping them increase production, incomes, and resilience, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Mobilizing Climate Finance to Build a Low-Carbon, Resilient Future

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This past week, we saw our future in a world of more extreme weather as Super Typhoon Haiyan tore apart homes and cities and thousands of lives across the Philippines.

Scientists have been warning for years that a warming planet will bring increasingly extreme and devastating weather. Scientific certainty has brought climate change over the planning horizon, and the impact is now unfurling before our eyes.  This level of damage, with millions of people affected, will become more frequent unless we do something about it – fast.

Negotiators from around the world are here in Warsaw for the UN climate conference to work on drivers that can spur that action on a global scale.

It is not overly complicated. We need to get the prices right, get finance flowing, and work where it matters most. But, each of these will take political will to right-size our collective ambition – for ourselves and for the people of the Philippines and the Pacific Islands and the low-lying coasts of Africa and the Caribbean who are directly in harm’s way.

Percentages, Pauses and Politics (of Climate Change)

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 Physical Science BasisWhen it comes to climate change, there has been a lot of talk the past few days about percentages (scientists who point to human causes), pauses (has warming slowed), and what it all means for policy and politics.

But, let’s be clear.

The latest report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change provides conclusive new scientific evidence that human activities are causing unprecedented changes in the Earth’s climate.

It buries the hatchet on “is it real” – the scientists say that it is extremely likely (95% probability) that most of the warming since 1950 has been due to human influence.

It pushes back on the skeptics’ claims that global warming stopped in 1998, and, most of important of all, it confirms that human activity, left unchecked, will further warm the Earth, with dramatic effects on weather, sea-levels and the Arctic.

This major international assessment of climate change, adopted Friday by the world’s governments, paints a blunt, clear picture of the scale of the problem before us.

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