Afghanistan needs more well-trained Afghan soldiers and better Afghan police, but the question is who will pay for them? The country cannot afford to pay the additional costs out of its own limited budget resources—any further money coming from this source will be at the expense of much less funding for urgent development priorities like educating children, improving basic health, building public infrastructure, etc. Will the international community commit to provide predictable funding for a number of years for Afghanistan’s security sector? This is a critical backbone of the state, whose development is essential to over time progressively replace international military forces which are far more costly. Creating security forces without the ability to pay for them will lead to obvious problems. And while expanding the Afghan security forces, it is critical to ensure that sound oversight and accountability mechanisms are in place.
The two great challenges of the 21st century are the battle against poverty and the management of climate change. On both we must act strongly now and expect to continue that action over the coming decades. Our response to climate change and poverty reduction will define our generation. If we fail on either one of them, we will fail on the other. The current crisis in the financial markets and the economic downturn is new and immediate, although some years in the making. All three challenges require urgent and decisive action, and all three can be overcome together through determined and concerted efforts across the world. But whilst recognising that we must respond, and respond strongly, to all three challenges, we should also recognise the opportunities: a well-constructed response to one can provide great direct advantages and opportunities for the other.
Some readers and activists may question why the World Bank Group funds coal-fired power plants and yet professes to embrace sustainable development. The answer is that there is an urgent need for energy in the poor countries that we serve and indeed in my home country, China. There are roughly 1.6 billion people in developing countries--700 million of whom are in Africa and 550 million in South Asia--who lack access to electricity.
The financial meltdown dominates agendas across the world today, in the wake of two other recent shocks--high food prices and energy price volatility--that have particularly affected many developing countries. Yet, even in a time when countries are preoccupied by pressing economic problems, we cannot afford to take our eye off the ball of another emerging crisis---global warming caused by climate change. Every crisis is an opportunity. With the right handling, we could simultaneously solve the current financial crisis and prevent the emerging climate change crisis.
“The essential problem is that our models – both risk models and econometric models – as complex as they have become, are still too simple to capture the full array of governing variables that drive global economic reality.[...] But risk management can never reach perfection. It will eventually fail and a disturbing reality will be laid bare, prompting an unexpected and sharp discontinuous response..” Alan Greenspan, former Governor of the US Federal Reserve, writing in the "Opinion" column of the FTMarch 16 2008.
|Photo © Dominic Sansoni/World Bank|
The world's attention is sharply focused on the financial crisis right now. Even Europe, which has always pushed for climate change, has begun to talk about potentially postponing the target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While the world leaders can bail out the financial crisis, climate change is a crisis that’s already happening and will not wait. A green energy technology revolution can not only mitigate climate change, but also create jobs and stimulate economies.
There’s been a lot of worrying news lately – particularly, news that looks bad for achieving global multilateral action on climate change. The collapse of the Doha trade negotiations in July has been interpreted by many – including World Bank President Robert Zoellick and former EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson – as steepening the “uphill struggle” of the UNFCCC negotiations.
More recently, the unfolding global financial crisis is weakening optimism about tackling climate change. The financial crisis is dominating headlines and bumping climate change ever lower on the international agenda. The metaphors abound, as climate change “takes a back seat” and is “left out in the cold.”
|Photo © Curt Carnemark/World Bank|
The current financial crisis is humbling every participant in the international financial system. Even Alan Greenspan acknowledged he was wrong in his blind confidence in the markets and financial innovation.
This crisis provides a cautionary tale of what could happen if we do not act urgently to limit the change in the earth’s climate. The current meltdown of the financial system is often portrayed as a massive regulation failure. Another regulation misstep—unmitigated climate change—could lead us to the actual meltdown of part of the earth’s climate system. This would make this financial crisis seem like a day on the beach.