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An Accounting System Worthy of Earth Day: Natural Capital Accounting

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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.

Talking to the UN Security Council about Climate Change

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Flags at the United Nations. UN Photos

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.

Climate Lessons from a Hotter Arab World

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Photo credit: Curt Carnemark/World Bank

This week in Doha, the marble corridors of the Qatar National Convention Center resonate with voices from around the world. Over half way through the UN Climate Change Conference, as ministers arrive and the political stakes pick up, a sense of greater urgency in the formal negotiations is almost palpable. But in the corridors, negotiations are already leading to deals and dreams and action on the ground.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the discussions by saying we need optimism, because without optimism there are no results. He reminded us all that Superstorm Sandy was a tragic awakening. He reiterated the call for a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, a global agreement and 100 billion in climate finance by 2020.

Meanwhile our focus was firmly on the region ...

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.

Bilan d’une semaine à Rio : du pain sur la planche pour lundi prochain

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Nous nous sommes rendus à Rio+20, la Conférence des Nations Unies sur le développement durable, avec la ferme intention d’en repartir munis d’un plan concret, un plan également adressé aux ministres des finances, du développement et de l’environnement qui nous indiquerait les changements à opérer « dès le lundi matin prochain » en vue d’atteindre notre objectif d’un développement durable pour tous.

 

Ce plan, nous l’avons.

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. 

Rio's Buzzing About Natural Capital Accounting

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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

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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

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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.

A Little Less Conversation, A Little More Action on Oceans

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Taina Tagicakibau, permanent secretary for Fiji’s Environment Department. Credit: Mariana Kaipper Ceratti
Taina Tagicakibau, permanent secretary for Fiji’s Environment Department, reaches out to a public audience during Rio +20 to explain the need for action to restore the world's oceans to health. Photos: Mariana Kaipper Ceratti/World Bank


It was an important day for the oceans at Rio +20. With negotiations around the Rio outcome text now reaching a crucial stage, it was good to get away from all the talk about words, to actually talk about action.

At the Global Ocean Forum – a gathering of ocean thinkers and doers on the sidelines of the Rio +20 conference – I announced the official birth of the Global Partnership for Oceans. It felt good to announce that 83 countries, civil society groups, private companies, research bodies and more have joined forced to make things happen for better managed, better protected oceans. Each of them has “signed on” (by email) to the Declaration for Healthy, Productive Oceans to Help Reduce Poverty (pdf). Read it and tell us what you think.

It has been inspiring to see the excitement that has gathered around this partnership. Country after country is now talking about the crisis facing oceans, the lack of action on all the unmet promises since the last Rio conference, and the fact that it’s time for all interests – public, private, non-government – to come together around innovative solutions.

It’s time for a global platform of action.

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