When presidents, prime ministers, and government ministers of more than 60 nations put their countries’ names behind natural capital accounting last year at Rio+20, something shifted. Countries wanted a better way of measuring progress that went beyond GDP and factored in nature and its services.
Clearly that was no flash in the pan. Last week, I chaired a high-level ministerial dialogue on the margins of the IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings where government ministers and senior representatives of more than 40 countries came together to compare notes on how natural capital accounting is working for them.
Country after country – represented by finance, development, or environment ministers – talked about how natural capital accounting fit their countries’ priorities and how it could be a tool to address some of their key policy challenges. With each statement from the floor, it was clear that natural capital accounting is no longer an academic concept. It is alive and well and being utilized across the world in developing, middle, and high-income countries.
If you want to fundamentally change how countries use energy, value their natural environments, or combat climate change, you have to talk to the people who hold the purse strings.
That’s what we’re doing this week. Finance ministers from countries around the world are in Washington for the annual World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings. We’re talking with them about these issues and more as we help countries shift to more sustainable development.
Underlying everything: climate change. This isn’t just an environmental challenge – it’s a fundamental threat to economic development and the fight against poverty. I can’t repeat that often enough. If the world does not take bold action now, a disastrously warming planet threatens to put prosperity out of reach for millions and roll back decades of development.
United Nations events, usually crowded with diplomats and technocrats, aren’t normally those which raise a lot of emotion – though there have been exceptions. I remember in particular the admonition from a delegate of Papua New Guinea to the UNFCCC COP a couple of years ago that if the United States wasn’t going to lead on tackling climate change, then it should at least get out of the way. Or last year in Doha, when the delegate from the Philippines complained that "… as we vacillate and procrastinate here, the death toll is rising" from a recent typhoon in his country.
Yesterday, the 10th Session of the UN Forum on Forests opened with an especially heartfelt plea from Turkey’s prime minister that departed from the usual platitudes of global leaders when it comes to the environment.
Genellikle diplomatların ve teknokratların doldurduğu Birleşmiş Milletler etkinlikleri, bazı istisnalar olsa da normal olarak çok fazla duygusal toplantılar değildir. Özellikle birkaç yıl önce UNFCC COP toplantısında Papua Yeni Gine temsilcisinin eğer Amerika Birleşik Devletleri iklim değişikliği ile mücadeleye önderlik etmeyecekse en azından yoldan çekilmesi gerektiği yönündeki uyarısını hatırlıyorum. Veya geçtiğimiz yıl Doha’da yapılan toplantıda Filipinler temsilcisinin ülkesinde kısa süre önce yaşanan tayfun ile ilgili olarak "… biz burada kararsızlık içinde beklerken ve oyalanırken ölü sayısı yükselmeye devam ediyor" şeklinde şikayet ettiğini hatırlıyorum.
Dün BM Orman Forumu 10. Oturumu Türkiye başbakanının çevre konusunda küresel liderlerin olağan klişelerinden farklı olarak içten bir çağrısı ile açıldı. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Forumu şu sözlerle açtı:
“Eğer üzerimize giydiğimiz elbise Bangladeş’te 5 yaşındaki bir çocuğun umutlarıyla dokunduysa, eğer aracımıza koyduğumuz benzin Libya’da bir masumun kanıyla karıştıysa, eğer çocuklarımıza verdiğimiz çikolata Afrika’nın nehirlerine zehir kattıysa, eğer üzerimize giydiğimiz palto bir hayvan türünün yok olmasına sebep olduysa, evimizdeki mobilya yağmur ormanlarını yağmaladıysa, bu döngüden, böyle bir küreselleşmeden, böyle bir ticaretten rahatsız olmak, bunu derinlemesine sorgulamak ve buna çareler üretmek zorundayız…
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China’s prospects stirred interest as the BRICs met in South Africa and a new survey by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found China on course to become the world’s largest economy by 2016. The OECD study says China has “weathered the global economic and financial crisis of the past five years better than virtually any OECD country” and should be able to continue catching up and improving living standards over the next decade. While the OECD study says China needs to shift to more environmentally friendly modes of consumption and production, a new Climate Institute/GE Low-Carbon Competitiveness Index finds that France, Japan, China, South Korea and the United Kingdom are “currently best positioned to prosper in the global low-carbon economy.”
Climate Institute/GE Low-Carbon Competitiveness Index
There is hardly a better place to focus on the ocean than Cape Town, South Africa. With the dramatic Twelve Apostles mountain range as a backdrop, only a narrow street separated us from the Atlantic coastline embracing this city. On March 20, I attended the first meeting of the Global Ocean Commission, a new independent task force of international leaders looking for ways to protect the high seas.
When Minister Trevor Manuel of South Africa invited me to join as a commissioner, I did not hesitate. As an Indonesian, I understand all too well both the predicament and the value of the ocean. At the World Bank, we have been participating in the development of a Global Partnership for Oceans (GPO), a coalition of over 125 groups aiming to increase investment and collaboration in a healthier ocean that can do more to reduce poverty.
The Global Ocean Commission was launched on February 12, 2013, to develop policy ideas and build international coalitions to reverse the degradation of the high seas – the part of the ocean that is not under the jurisdiction of any one nation. For that reason, the commission is a powerful complement to the GPO, which focuses largely on supporting countries’ efforts to better manage their coastal waters.
If you were to ask me what our biggest challenge is, I would say it is to convince politicians who have to grapple with day-to-day domestic issues that the ocean matters.
During my stay in Cape Town, I listened to a lot of conclusive science and saw a lot of convincing economic data. Let’s be clear, the facts are stark. If we don’t act, the ocean’s future—and by extension ours—is bleak.
Here it is in a nutshell: One billion people in developing countries depend on fish as their primary source of protein, and 350 million jobs are linked to the health of the oceans. Yet 57% of ocean fisheries are fully exploited. Another 30% are over-exploited, depleted or recovering. An increasing share of important marine habitats like coral reefs, mangroves and sea grass beds are being destroyed or degraded. You can learn about the impact in this video.
Elephant ivory is on the march. Not elephants, but their ivory. The elephants are left bloodied and dead on the range. So are many rangers who work to protect a country’s natural capital. In the past 10 years, over 1,000 rangers have been murdered in 35 countries alone; the International Ranger Federation tell us that as many as 5,000 may have been murdered worldwide in that time.
At the CITES COP – the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species – the halls in Bangkok ring loud with concern for the elephants and other charismatic species, particularly rhinos, that are being exterminated across Africa in pursuit of private profit, at the expense of communities that rely on nature for their food, shelter, start-up capital, and safety net in a warming world.
So why should the World Bank care? Our concern is to build strong economies and healthy communities by revving the engine of inclusive green growth as we prepare countries and communities for the impacts of climate change.
What does this have to do with elephant ivory you ask? Simply put, we cannot achieve our dream of a world without poverty without taking account of the rise in wildlife crime.
Cities have always been the driving forces of world civilizations. What Niniveh was to the Assyrian civilization, Babylon was to the Babylonian civilization. When Peter the Great, third in the Romanov Dynasty, became Russia’s ruler in 1696, Moscow’s influence began to expand. Peter strengthened the rule of the tsar and westernized Russia, at the same time, making it a European powerhouse and greatly expanding its borders. By 1918, the Russian empire spanned a vast territory from Western Europe to China.
As Peter the Great and his successors strove to consolidate their reign over this empire, major social, economic, cultural, and political changes were happening in the urban centers. Moscow led these changes, followed by St. Petersburg, which was built as a gateway to filter and channel western civilization through the empire. By fostering diversification through connectivity, specialization, and scale economies, these cities started the structural transformation of the Russian empire away from depending on commodities and limited markets in a way that more effectively served local demand.
Walking out of Keflavik airport as the arctic breeze hit my face at 50 km per hour, I thought to myself, “I love my job.” A job that makes a tropical citizen like me enjoy the hospitality of the very warm Icelanders and allows me to learn from their experience is hard to top. With 320,000 citizens and just the size of the U.S. state of Kentucky, subpolar Iceland has a lot to teach us development practitioners.
We are only beginning to put together a vision for how to deal with the dilemma of a warming-- and therefore more unpredictable and punishing--climate and ever increasing energy needs. But Iceland has long ago put its mind to the challenge and now lives productively and peacefully in an environment that throws at it tremendous challenges and great gifts.
My appreciation of Iceland's strategy to make use of its environment and harness its renewable energy rose as I visited Hellisheiði Geothermal Plant. Feeling the rumbles of the earth and looking at the steam that puffed from its heart against the backdrop of a volcanic landscape, I was in awe both of nature and the people who have embraced its imposing power.
This morning, I had the honor of speaking to the UN Security Council about an increasingly dangerous threat facing cities and countries around the world, a threat that, more and more, is influencing everything that they and we do: climate change.
World Bank President Jim Kim is in Russia right now talking with G20 finance ministers about the same thing – the need to combat climate change. Every day, we’re hearing growing concerns from leaders around the world about climate change and its impact.
If we needed any reminder of the immediacy and the urgency of the situation, Australia Foreign Minister Bob Carr and our good friend President Tong of Kiribati spoke by video of the security implication of climate effects on the Pacific region.