When I was growing up in Albania in the mid-80s, gas flares were a constant and silent backdrop to our holidays by the seashore. The fiery plumes would shimmer in the early morning summer light while we squeezed like sardines into the bus that would take up to the beach. At night, from our cabin, they looked like rows of giant torches in the distance. As a child, I was mesmerized by the way the flames danced and shimmered from the tall chimneys in clouds of black curling smoke. I was told that the oil wells were on fire and eventually the flares burned themselves out. I didn’t ask many questions then; in communism asking questions was discouraged and could get one in trouble.
It’s spring in Washington during a pivotal year in development. Thousands of government officials, journalists, civil society representatives, academics, and CEOs are arriving for the Spring Meetings of the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund the week of April 13.
It’s one of the last such gatherings before decisions are made on the world’s development priorities and goals over the next 15 years – and how to finance them. In fact, the only item on the April 18 agenda of the Development Committee concerns these post-2015 goals and financing for development.
Ten years ago, the World Bank and the government of Norway launched an ambitious project to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from a source few people thought much about. If you’ve driven past oil fields at night, you’ve seen the flames from gas flaring. But you might not have realized just how much greenhouse gas was being pumped into the dark – and how much of a natural energy resource was being wasted in the process.
Half a dozen major oil companies joined us in 2002 in creating the public-private Global Gas Flaring Reduction partnership, and we began working together to reduce the flaring. More than 30 government and industry partners are on board today.
Together, we have achieved a great deal in just the first decade.