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Communities and Human Settlements

Progress in the Corridors at the Convention on Biological Diversity

Rachel Kyte's picture

Elephants. World Bank/Curt Carnemark

Sometimes, international convention meetings can be heart-breakingly slow-moving. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) – one of the three conventions born after Rio in 1992 to drive sustainable development – which has been meeting in Hyderabad in India this week, is no exception. I’ve seen tough negotiators from all corners of the Earth emerge from conference rooms wearing pained expressions.

It’s outside the negotiating rooms – where the major topic of the moment is how to mobilize the financial resources needed to meet the CBD’s ambitious Aichi Targets – where things are a lot brighter.

Cost-Effective Conservation

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The success of the Amazon Region Protected Areas Program (ARPA) drew a crowd here in Hyderabad at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity meeting. This effort by the government of Brazil – supported by the World Bank, the Global Environment Facility, WWF, and the German Development Bank (KfW) – is protecting almost 60 million hectares of rainforest, an area roughly the size of France and Belgium combined.

Speakers from the governments of Brazil and Germany, as well as from the GEF and foundations, all agreed that ARPA’s results are impressive: Between 2004 and 2006, ARPA accounted for 37 percent of Brazil’s substantial decrease in deforestation, and the program’s first 13 new protected areas will save more than 430 million tons of CO2 emissions through 2050.

New Pledges Expand GAFSP's Food Security Work in World's Poorest Countries

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When you want to put money, ideas, innovation, and hard work together to increase food security, there’s nowhere better than the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program – GAFSP.

Don’t just believe me. Listen to the Rwandan farmers whose now-terraced hillsides are getting higher yields, producing better nutrition, and improving their livelihoods.

Similar stories can be told in Tajikistan, Sierra Leone, Bangladesh, and elsewhere.

Japan and the Republic of Korea are among those convinced that GAFSP is a good investment in food security. Inspired by a challenge from the Unites States, Japan and South Korea just pledged an additional $60 million to GAFSP at a meeting in Tokyo held in conjunction with the World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings.

The United States announced that it was prepared to contribute an additional $1 to GAFSP for every $2 contributed by other donors, up to a total of $475 million.

Why is GAFSP so successful?

2.3 Million Lives Lost: We Need a Culture of Resilience

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Also available in: العربية

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By 2050, the urban population exposed tos torms and earthquakes alone could more than double to 1.5 billion.

Looking at communities across our planet, there is a brutal lack of resilience in our modern lives. Cities have expanded without careful planning into flood- and storm-prone areas, destroying natural storm barriers and often leaving the poor to find shelter in the most vulnerable spots. Droughts, made more frequent by climate change, have taken a toll on crops, creating food shortages.

In the past 30 years, disasters have killed over 2.3 million people, about the population of Houston or all of Namibia.

Celebrating 25 Years of the Montreal Protocol - and Looking Ahead

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Ozone depletion reached its highest level in 2006, NASA monitoring found.
The world’s leaders set a high bar when they adopted the Montreal Protocol, which has helped protect the Earth’s protective ozone layer for the last 25 years. Even with its ambitious goals, the treaty won universal ratification – 197 parties have agreed to legally binding reduction targets to phase out ozone-depleting gases, and they have stuck to them.

 

The result: we, as a global community, have almost completely phased out the use of 97 substances that were depleting the ozone layer.

 

It’s a success worth celebrating, but we can’t rest on our laurels. We phased out CFCs, once used for cooling most refrigerators on the planet, but some of their replacement gases have become a climate change problem we still have to contend with.

Lessons from Hanoi: The Imperative of Implementing Climate-Smart Agriculture

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Terraced rice fields in Vietnam. World Bank/Tran Thi Hoa

Ninh Binh Province was hit by severe flooding two weeks ago, like many other regions in Vietnam. It was yet another sharp reminder that Vietnam will increasingly be facing the effects of climate change. However, as we were visiting the region a few days later, activity had returned to normal, and people were busy working in rice paddy fields or cooking meals for their families (with biogas produced from livestock waste).

Ninh Binh Province has shown remarkable resilience to flooding, thanks in part to an innovative program set up by local authorities called “living with floods.” It consists of stepping up the number of staff (military, policemen, civilians) on duty during the flood season and reinforcing physical infrastructure – dikes have been upgraded with more than 2,700 cubic meters of rocks, and about 2 million cubic meters of mud have been dredged to assure water flow in the Hoang Long River.

This field trip to Thanh Lac Commune during the 2nd Global Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change illustrated some examples of what resilient agriculture could be and how adaptation, productivity, and mitigation should be considered in an integrated manner. Ensuring the resilience of the country’s agricultural sector will be essential, not only to its own food security, but to the world’s—it is the world’s second largest rice exporter.

Putting Nature at the Heart of Economic Decisions

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To put nature at the heart of economic decisions, government, the private sector & the conservation community must reach across the aisle.

Look around the world, and you’ll see abundant reasons to worry about nature and its capacity to sustain us. Over 60 percent of ecosystems are in worse shape now than 50 years ago; 85 percent of ocean fisheries are fully exploited, over-exploited or depleted; half of all wetlands have been destroyed since 1900; and climate change is changing everything.

But at the same time, if you look carefully, there are reasons for cautious optimism.

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

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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

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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

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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.

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