It's been two months now since the historic climate change conference, COP21, wrapped up in Paris, concluding with 195 countries pledging to take actions to keep global warming to under 2 degrees Celsius. This is an unprecedented achievement in the long history of international climate policy.
Compared to past negotiations, there was a different atmosphere in Paris. The negotiators were determined to find common ground rather than draw insurmountable lines in the sand. Investors lined up with billions of dollars in new financial commitments in addition to the suggested roadmap for developed nations to contribute to the needed $100 billion annually for mitigation and adaptation efforts.
And the private sector was more active and visible than ever before: CEOs from industries as far ranging as cement, transportation, energy, and consumer goods manufacturers announced their own climate commitments in Paris to decrease their carbon footprints, adopt renewable energy, and improve natural resource management.
This enthusiasm was especially apparent during the CEO panel that IFC, the organization I represent, convened during the Caring for Climate Business Forum by UN Global Compact. CEOs from client companies in India, Turkey, Thailand, and South Africa discussed their innovative climate change initiatives, investments, and technologies, and the challenges of scaling up their climate business.
Globally, around 2 billion people do not use formal financial services. In Southeast Asia, there are 264 million adults who are still “unbanked”; many of them save their money under the mattress and borrow from so-called “loan sharks”, paying exorbitant interest rates on a daily or weekly basis. Recognizing the importance of financial inclusion for economic development, the leaders of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) have made this one of their top priorities for the next five years.
Last week, the World Bank Group presented the latest data on financial inclusion in ASEAN to senior representatives of the ministries of finance and central banks of all 10 ASEAN member countries (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam). The session, held in Kuala Lumpur, is one of the joint activities the new World Bank Research and Knowledge Hub and Malaysia is undertaking to support financial inclusion around the world.
Asian societies are aging, and Thailand is aging rapidly. Already over 10 percent of the Thai population, or more than 7 million people, are 65 years old or older. By 2040, a projected 17 million Thais above 65 years of age will account for more than a quarter of the population. Together with China, Thailand already has the highest share of elderly people of any developing country in East Asia and Pacific, and it is expected to have the highest elderly share by 2040. A recent World Bank report, Live Long and Prosper: Aging in East Asia and Pacific (pdf), discusses aging in Asia and how countries can address the resulting challenges, and take advantage of emerging opportunities.
In many ways, aging is a consequence of longer life expectancy due to development success in Thailand: people live longer, and fertility has come down rapidly from the unsustainably high levels of earlier decades. However, every success brings new challenges and aging is no exception. For example, the size of the working age population in Thailand is expected to shrink over 10 percent by 2040. Thailand has exhausted its “demographic dividend”, and future growth and improvement in living standards will largely come from increases in productivity. In addition, households headed by elderly Thais are twice as likely to be poor as those in their 30s and 40s, and in most cases are not covered by formal sector pension schemes.
The Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) is a major global rice producer and exporter but its population suffers from serious levels of poverty and malnutrition.
Spanning six countries – China, Myanmar, Lao PDR, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam – the region is home to 334 million people. Nearly 60 million of them are involved in rice production, growing collectively over 44% of the world’s rice. All of the countries, except China, are net exporters of rice. This means they have more rice available than required for domestic consumption. Yet, nearly 15% of the population is seriously malnourished and about 40% of children under five are stunted, in other words, too short for their age as a result of under nutrition.
In Asia, Thailand remains one of the countries hardest hit by the HIV epidemic. Currently, 440,000 people are living with HIV and approximately 1,250 people die each year from HIV-related causes.
Although the country is often praised for its highly successful efforts to curb the spread of HIV among sex workers and their clients, particularly through the world-renowned 100% Condom Use Program, its response to HIV among men who have sex with men (MSM) has been limited.
The latest cyclical warming of Pacific Ocean waters, first observed centuries ago and formally tracked since 1950, began earlier this year and already has been felt across Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Weather experts predict this El Niño will continue into the spring of 2016 and could wreak havoc, because climate change is likely to exacerbate the intensity of storms and flooding in some places and of severe drought and water shortages in others.
El Niño’s impacts are global, with heavy rain and severe flooding expected in South America and scorching weather and drought conditions likely in the Horn of Africa region.
The investment needs for low-carbon, climate-resilience growth are substantial. Public resources can bridge viability gaps and cover risks that private actors are unable or unwilling to bear, while the private sector can bring the financial flows and innovation required to sustain progress. For this partnership to reach its full potential, investors need to be provided with the necessary signals, enabling environments, and incentives to confidently invest in emerging economies.
Imagine record commitments in transport that are 26% higher than the next best year since the inception of the Private Participation in Infrastructure (PPI) Database in 1990. That’s exactly what took place in 2014—massive private participation in transport that culminated in the fourth highest level of global investment (transport, energy, and water) ever recorded. Indeed, the PPI Database’s 2014 Global Update released in June, 2015, shows that total investment in transport hit a record high of US$36.5 billion, driven by a handful of outsized deals in
Latin America and, more specifically, Brazil—including a mega airport project totaling US$10 billion. Meanwhile, energy fell 19 percent year-over-year due to fewer commitments in five out of six regions, while water grew 14 percent, driven by key deals in Brazil, Mexico, and Peru. In a separate report, Telecom showed modest year-over-year declines, extending a trend of fewer projects and lower investment over the past five years.
Named by Peruvian fishermen because of its tendency to appear around Christmastime, El Niño is the planet’s most large-scale and recurring mode of climate variability. Every 2-7 years, a slackening of trade winds that push sun-warmed water across the Pacific contributes to a rise in water temperature across large parts of the ocean. As the heat rises, a global pattern of weather changes ensues, triggering heat waves in many tropical regions and extreme drought or rainfall in others.
The fact that we are undergoing a major El Niño event should cause major concern and requires mobilization now. Already, eight provinces in the Philippines are in a state of emergency due to drought; rice farmers in Vietnam and Thailand have left fields unplanted due to weak rains; and 42,000 people have been displaced by floods in Somalia.
And this is before the event reaches its peak. Meteorologists see a 95% chance of the El Niño lasting into 2016, with its most extreme effects arriving between now and March. Coastal regions of Latin America are braced for major floods; India is dealing with a 14% deficit in the recent monsoon rains; and poor rainfalls could add to insecurity in several of Africa’s fragile states. Indeed, Berkeley Professor Soloman Hsiang has used historical data to demonstrate that the likelihood of new conflict outbreaks in tropical regions doubles from 3% to 6% in an El Niño year.
But despite its thousand-year history, the devastation associated with El Niño is not inevitable. Progress made by many other countries since the last major event, in 1997-98, shows that we can get a grip on its effect – and others caused by climate trends.
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Families and schools are the key institutions where young children learn social norms.
Schools, in particular, provide the playground for children to socialize and work out their social values and relationships, including gender.
The impact of schools in forming gender values is believed to be high, but in the past there has been little evidence-based research in Thailand to generate understanding on this issue.
Last year, the Promoting and Coordinating Women’s Affairs Committee (PCWA) conducted two studies, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation and the World Bank, to provide evidence-based research on the gender situation in the Thai education system. It aims to help strengthen or dispel assumptions about how gender biases and stereotypes are learned, taught, shared and transmitted in Thailand.