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Sustainable Development

The Good News and Bad News on Agriculture and Climate Change

Rachel Kyte's picture
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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.

Pulling the Tablecloth Out From Under Development Efforts - Without Breaking a Glass

Benedikt Lukas Signer's picture

Residents return from storm shelters to Ganjam district in Odisha after Cyclone Phailan made landfall. ADRA India / European CommissionWhen Cyclone Phailin struck the Indian states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh last week, the predictions were dire. In 1999, a cyclone of comparable strength took 10,000 lives.
 
While Phailin affected up to 8 million people, leaving approximately 600,00 homeless, death tolls are currently estimated to be in the low double digits. What made all the difference between 1999 and today? A much improved early warning system, effective evacuations, and the construction of shelters probably played a crucial role. Credible forecasts and early warnings were available for several days before landfall, and close to one million people were evacuated.
 
Everyone who still thinks disasters are ‘natural’ should stop and consider this for a minute. This difference in impact is a real world example of an analogy discussed at the 5th Resilience Dialogue on Oct. 11, 2013.  Here’s my interpretation:
 
Remember that old magic trick where a tablecloth is pulled off a fully set table but (almost) nothing falls over?

In India, Ganges River Cleanup is Part of Poverty Fight

Jim Yong Kim's picture

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KANPUR, India -- I traveled to the banks of the Ganges River today to look at an Indian government initiative, supported by the World Bank Group, to clean up the sacred river. We're working with the government on this long-term effort -- an extraordinarily complex one in part because of the multiple sources of pollution that enter the river. It's part of our vitally important work in one of India's states, Uttar Pradesh, which is home to 200 million people. This state alone has 8% of the world's population living in extreme poverty. Watch the video for more.

Near Epicenter of Japan’s Earthquake, a New Push to Make ‘This World Safer’

Donna Barne's picture

On a grassy coastal plain near Sendai, Japan, stands a symbol of survival.

The four-story school house was the tallest building in the neighborhood of 980 homes, where children once played and went to school but now mostly consists of the remnants of concrete housing foundations. In Japan’s March 11, 2011 disaster, more than 300 people made it onto the roof of Arahama Elementary and survived the massive tsunami that hit Japan’s shores. School and community evacuation drills and preparedness saved lives that day, Principal Takao Kawamura said.

The school’s experience resonated at the Sendai Dialogue on October 10—where leaders, disaster and development experts debated how to better prepare for disasters in an increasingly risky world, where disasters have doubled in 30 years.

Isolated West Nile Region Home to First Sub-Saharan World Bank Project to Issue Carbon Credits

Isabel Hagbrink's picture

Electricity transmissions lines in Uganda. Credit: Arne Hoel/World Bank

Wedged between the Congo, the south of Sudan, and the West Nile River, the 1.5 million people in Uganda’s West Nile region live in relative isolation from the rest of the country.

Nowhere in Uganda is oil and gasoline more expensive than in the West Nile. The national power grid does not reach into the northwest of Uganda, and power from generators is available only for a lucky few and only for a few hours a day.

Some entrepreneurs have started mills and small workshops, outfitting them with old diesel generators that are inefficient and very expensive to operate. Some institutions, such as hospitals, and some of the richer households have their own diesel generators that help them escape the scarce and unreliable public power service. The growth in individual generators is indicative of a general upswing in economic activity in the region, but life without reliable electric power has remained a challenge.

That is now beginning to change, and carbon credits are playing an important role.

How a Week in Rio Leads to an Active Monday Morning

Rachel Kyte's picture

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What will you do Monday morning to start making a difference? UN Photo/Maria Elisa Franco

We came to Rio+20 determined that one outcome of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development must be a plan for what ministers of finance, development and environment and ourselves need to do differently Monday morning, June 25th  – if we are to achieve sustainable development for all. 

We have our plan.

We came to Rio+20 knowing that inclusive green growth is the pathway to sustainable development, and the evidence here is that this international community agrees. 

The analysis behind the World Bank’s report Inclusive Green Growth: The Pathway to Sustainable Development framed many of the conference debates and helped facilitate a new focus on natural capital accounting – a fundamental component of inclusive green growth.

According to the 59 countries, 86 companies, and 17 civil society organizations that supported the World Bank Group-facilitated 50:50 campaign – as well as many others – natural capital accounting is an idea whose time has come.   

In fact, natural capital accounting events filled the Rio Convention Center, and government and civil society groups alike highlighted the importance of moving beyond GDP.

This new energy and emphasis around this issue may be the most important outcome of Rio+ 20. 

Gender Equality: Smart Economics & Smart Business

Rachel Kyte's picture

Gro Harlem Brundtland speaks with Michele Bachelet at Rio+20. UN Photo/Maria Elisa Franco
Gro Harlem Brundtland, former prime minister of Norway and special envoy of the UN secretary-general on climate change, speaks with Michelle Bachelet, former president of Chile and executive director of UN Women, during a press conference at the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development. UN Photo/Maria Elisa Franco

Twenty years ago, evenings in the Planeta Femea - the women’s tent in the alternative forum, the Global Forum - changed my life. I started connecting health, rights, environment, and development through the vision of the women there. Now, 20 years later, a new generation of young women is angry and frustrated that their rights and their health always seem to get traded away at the last moment.

Absent here in Rio are some of the pioneers on whose shoulders we stand - Wangari Maathai and Bella Abzug to name just two. We should remember that in the run-up to Rio the first time around, delegates and officialdom thought them troublesome -  they “needed to be managed.” Wangari, of course, faced much worse before she was embraced as a radical reformer for peace and sustainable development and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In Rio this time around, gender equality is understood as smart economics, and judging by the energy and programming in the private sector summits, smart business, too. This is a real advance in implementing Agenda 21.

Rio's Buzzing About Natural Capital Accounting

Rachel Kyte's picture

Only a very short time ago, we were drawing blank looks when we mentioned "natural capital accounting." This week at Rio, everyone is talking about it. Walls are plastered with flyers about it.  And our event on it yesterday drew such a crowd it was standing-room only.

With three presidents, two prime ministers, one deputy prime minister, a host of ministers, top corporate leaders and civil society groups in the room, we announced that the 50:50 campaign to get at least 50 countries and 50 companies to commit to acting on natural capital accounting was a success. The latest tally: 59 countries, 88 private companies, 1 region, and 16 civil society groups signing on to the Gaborone Declaration, recommitting to other natural capital initiatives, or agreeing to join forces with this movement.

It's All Connected: Landscape Approaches to Sustainable Development

Rachel Kyte's picture

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China's Loess Plateau, before and after restoration through a landscape approach. Photos: Till Niermann, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0), Erick Fernandes/World Bank.
China's Loess Plateau, before and after restoration through a landscape approach.
Photos: Till Niermann, Wikimedia Commons (CC), Erick Fernandes/World Bank.

Yesterday, I joked that I didn't want to come to another Agriculture and Rural Development Day. I wasn’t trying to be flip, and I was only half-joking, but not for the reasons you might think.

I said that we need to be coming to “Landscape Days” – where we have the foresters in the room with the farmer and with the fishers and with the producers and with everybody in the research community.

The bottom line is that we can't achieve food security, or nutrition security, without preserving the ecosystem services that forests provide. We can't sustain forests without thinking of how we will feed a growing population. And we can't grow food without water.

Upping the Level of Ambition in Rio

Rachel Kyte's picture

Rio+20 Art. UN Photo/Maria Elisa Franco
Art at the Rio+20 Pavillion reminds those passing by: "The future begins with the decisions we make in the present." UN Photo/Maria Elisa Franco

 

While negotiators were getting their teeth stuck into the newly circulated text at Rio Centro, I meeting-hopped today around the city to meet with legislators, NGOs, and the private sector.

There may not be the buzz of `92 – yet. But, the sense of urgency, action, and recognition of the need to up the level of ambition at Rio was evident among these critical groups.

In the magnificent Tiradentes Palace, over 300 parliamentarians from more than 70 countries gathered for the first ever World Summit of Legislators organised by GLOBE International. They were there to agree a new mechanism for scrutinizing and monitoring governments on delivery of the Rio agreements (past and present). Also a new Natural Capital Action Plan.

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