I recently returned from vacation in Alaska, America’s final frontier. This place is massive, twice as big as Texas. It’s so remote that many of the conveniences Americans take for granted simply aren’t available. Prices are high, cell-phone coverage is sparse, and the state capital, Juneau, isn’t even accessible by road. It’s wonderful in summer, but during winter there are only six hours of dim sun.
For the 737,000 people who call Alaska home, life can be a challenge most of the year. The economy relies heavily on energy extraction (80% of state revenue is from petroleum) and the federal government (subsidies and military spending), plus fishing and tourism.
Over the last 20 years, economic growth has helped to lift almost a billion people out of extreme poverty. But 1 billion people are still extremely poor. 1.1 billion live without electricity and 2.5 billion people without access to sanitation. For them, growth has not been inclusive enough.
In addition, growth has come at the expense of the environment. While environmental degradation affects everyone, the poor are more vulnerable to violent weather, floods, and a changing climate.
Development experts, policymakers, and institutions like the World Bank have learned a major lesson: If we want to succeed in ending poverty, growth needs to be inclusive and sustainable.
There is a growing consensus that a new approach is needed to meet the financial needs of developing countries to ensure sustainable, inclusive and resilient growth paths. We all know that Official Development Assistance (ODA) finance is limited and cannot address the massive investment needs of countries. In addition to increased domestic resource mobilization, the more effective engagement of a variety of players, especially from private sector, NGOs, and philanthropic organizations, will be key to close the finance gap.
Successful slogans can make a world of difference. In Vietnam, a catchphrase for a climate-smart way to produce rice has shown small farmers how they can boost rice profitability, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The World Bank discovered this through an Agriculture Competitiveness Project in Vietnam, which championed an alternate wetting and drying rice production technique that uses less water, reduction in application of fertilizers and management of crop residues to reduce the level of methane and nitrous oxide emissions from the rice fields. Adopting this climate-smart practice required the systematic engagement of the entire community committed to draining the rice fields multiple times over a matter of weeks, something traditionally rarely done. Adopting this alternate wetting and drying technique not only helps strengthen plant roots but also reduces flooding periods which translates into reduced methane production.
At the core of the encyclical is both a concern for the health of the planet and for the earth’s poor, reflected in a commitment to social values and integrity, environmental resilience, and economic inclusion.
The stock-taking begins, aptly, with pollution: “Some forms of pollution are part of people’s daily experience. Exposure to atmospheric pollutants produces a broad spectrum of health hazards, especially for the poor, and causes millions of premature deaths.” The World Bank’s latest edition of the Little Green Data Book finds indeed that in low and middle-income countries, 86% of the residents are exposed to air pollution levels (measured in exposure particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter) that exceed World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. The WHO last year made headlines when it calculated that 7 million people had died prematurely from indoor and outdoor air pollution in 2012. From safer cookstoves in rural areas, to better air quality management in fast growing cities, this is an area where solutions are known and must be urgently applied.
In a joint post, World Bank Director for Climate Change James Close teams up with Environment and Natural Resources Global Practice Senior Director Paula Caballero and Health, Nutrition and Population Global Practice Senior Director Tim Evans to comment on a new report released by The Lancet, which touches upon aspects of each of their portfolios and underscores the value in working collaboratively toward development solutions.
In a new report released today, the Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change tells us that “tackling climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century.”
Among its recommendations, it calls on governments to invest in climate change and public health research and monitoring and surveillance, and to scale-up financing for climate-resilient health systems worldwide.
At the World Bank, we couldn’t agree more.
Every year, we lose 24 billion tons of fertile soil to erosion and 12 million hectares of land to desertification and drought. This threatens the lives and livelihoods of 1.5 billion people now.
In the future,. Land degradation could also reduce global food production by up to 12% and push world food prices up by 30%. In Egypt, Ghana, Central African Republic, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Paraguay, land degradation could cause an annual GDP loss of up to 7%.
Pressure on land resources is expected to increase as populations grow, socio-economic development happens and the climate changes. A growing population will demand more food, which means that unsuitable or especially biodiverse land will be claimed for farming and be more vulnerable to degradation. Increased fertilizer and pesticide use related to agriculture will increase nutrient loading in soils, causing eutrophication and declines in fertility over time.—especially in drylands, which occupy 40% of global land area, and are inhabited by some 2 billion people. Urban areas, which are located in the world’s highly fertile areas, could grow to account for more than 5% of global land by mid-century.
Unless we manage our land better, every person will rely on just .11 hectares of land for their food; down from .45 hectares in 1960.
Over the past several weeks, we have made headway in our efforts to reduce deforestation and promote sustainable land use as part of a broader World Bank Group approach to combat climate change. Partnering with the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), the Democratic Republic of Congo has taken a major step by assessing its readiness for a large-scale initiative in which developing forested countries keep their forests standing and developed countries pay for the carbon that is not released into the atmosphere. Likewise, other countries in the 47-country FCPF partnership are making strides in their efforts to prepare for programs that mitigate greenhouse gas emission and support sustainable forest landscapes.
This approach is also known as REDD+, or reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Active REDD+ programs can help reduce the 20 percent of carbon emissions that come from forest loss and simultaneously provide support to the 60 million people, including indigenous communities, who are wholly dependent on forests.