On a chilly October day in 2015, 24-year-old Rami Anis boarded a rubber boat in the Aegean Sea in Turkey. His destination was Europe and his goal was a better life away from war and hardship.
Looking at the people around him on the boat, he was horrified. They were children, men, and women. The fact that they might not make it never escaped his mind, even though he is a professional swimmer.
“Because with the sea, you can’t joke,” said the Syrian refugee.
But on Aug. 11, Rami will not be worried about swimming in the sea. He, instead, will be swimming at the Olympics. He made it safely to Belgium after days of heart-wrenching journey, from Istanbul to Izmir to Greece before setting off a trek through Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, Austria, Germany and eventually Belgium.
Rami will be competing at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro as a member of the Refugee Olympic Team — the first of its kind — and march with the Olympic flag immediately before host nation Brazil at the opening ceremony.
Mapping gravel roads in flood-prone areas amidst talk of guerrilla ambushes was not what I had imagined when I signed up as a climate change specialist for the World Bank. But if my first trip to the Zambezia and Nampula provinces in northern Mozambique is any indication of what life as a World Banker is going to be – my teenage Indiana Jones fantasies may well come true!
It all started innocently enough when I was hired to support a project in Mozambique focused on improving the conditions of feeder roads to foster agricultural production. The northern provinces of Zambezia and Nampula are major agricultural producers for the country, but also highly flood-prone. The Zambezi, Ligonha and Molocue rivers flood almost every rainy season, rendering significant elements of the road network impassable, sometimes for months. A changing climate could increase the severity and frequency of extreme rainfall – further exacerbating flood risks. Our goal was to identify elements of the unmapped, “unclassified” feeder network which could be improved to provide network redundancy, and thus improve road system resilience to flooding. It quickly became clear that the first step in evaluating an unmapped network is to map it, so I spent the last two weeks in Mozambique working with the government to do just that.
Over the past two years, the World Bank’s flagship climate change report series Turn Down the Heat and its complementary free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) have helped bring important climate related issues to policy makers and concerned citizens, reaching nearly 39,000 people in more than 180 countries worldwide.
Now, with the adoption of the Paris Agreement at COP 21, we are ready to launch a new and exciting MOOC: “From Climate Science to Action – Turn Down the Heat Series”. The MOOC is delivered in association with the World Bank’s Open Learning Campus – the one stop shop for development learning. This interactive course focuses on region-specific impacts and opportunities for climate action in the context of the Paris Agreement. With an overview of the submitted National Determined Contributions (NDCs), it lays out implementation challenges and opportunities of the Paris Agreement.
To discuss some of the key infrastructure challenges faced by its client countries, the World Bank recently hosted its first International Conference on "Sustainable Development through Quality Infrastructure” in Tokyo, Japan. But what exactly do we mean by "quality infrastructure", and what role can it play in creating resilient, sustainable cities?
Playing out this week and next in Paris is a high-stakes match between science and political will.
The science part is quite clear: 2015 is set to be the hottest year on record – a full degree over pre-industrial averages. Climate change is already taking a toll on countries. Add to that we have El Nino wreaking havoc in many parts of the world. And it is going to get warmer.
The political analysis is more complicated. On the one hand, if the national plans, the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) drawn up by countries to tackle climate change were implemented, including actions that have been conditioned on available finance, this would likely put the planet on about a 2.7 C degree trajectory that would be catastrophic for the economic, social and natural systems on which we depend. Clearly more needs to be done. On the other hand, it is a sign of welcome progress. The fact that almost all the world’s countries (Carbon Brief tracks 184 climate pledges to date) have put forward INDCs is a remarkable feat many would have considered impossible just a few years ago. So there is progress, just not fast enough.
Paris should be seen as an important milestone in an arduous journey– a platform for generating an ever upward spiral of ambition in many fields of climate action.
One area that promises innumerable wins for people and the planet is land use change, agriculture, and forestry. Together these sectors account for about 24 percent of global emissions, but represent a much greater share of emissions in many developing countries. A preliminary analysis of INDCs shows strong commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, forest degradation, land use change and agriculture. And there is evidence of a growing appetite for landscape restoration measures in many of those countries.
Social protection programs are essential to creating resilient communities that can withstand crises, but they are also difficult to implement. Improving preparedness is an important task going forward.
Over at the IDS blog, Stephen Devereux outlined ten steps to the design and implementation of a national social protection (SP) programme. It's a useful list for SP practitioners and local policymakers – a ten-point check-list; an useful starting point. I found interesting in particular, the point on ‘needs assessments’:
Needs assessment: A social protection system should not be an off-the-shelf blueprint, but must be grounded in local analysis of social protection needs, which can be derived from national poverty surveys and other secondary sources. Who are the poor and food insecure? What are the drivers of poverty and vulnerability? By comparing the needs assessment with the policy mapping, a gaps analysis can be conducted that will inform the development of the social protection strategy.
Determining who the deserving beneficiaries are, and the value (in cash and/or kind) of the transfers is critical. At the very least, this calls for a reasonably sophisticated statistical capacity in the countries designing these policies for themselves, which poses a significant challenge.
At the Aspen Ideas Festival, World Bank Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change Rachel Kyte talks about climate resilience and how it can create opportunities for all people while protecting all people. Women and children make up a large number of the extreme poor, who are among those most at risk from the impacts of climate change.
The Paris negotiations where the world will be writing a new international climate agreement are just a year away, and here in Lima, delegates from around the world are discussing their national commitments and contributions that will largely determine the level of ambition in that 2015 deal.
As we trace the path to a resilient and decarbonized economy, we must keep in mind that the Paris agreement will set a framework for the period post-2020. What happens until then?
The science tells us that, even with very ambitious mitigation action, we have already locked-in warming close to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Climate change impacts such as heat-waves, droughts, storms, and other weather extremes may be unavoidable.
Why should the world—and Africa in particular—care about resilience?
The importance of resilience as an imperative for development is nowhere as obvious as in Africa. Fragile natural resources—at the core of livelihoods and economic opportunities—are under increasing pressure from unsustainable use, population pressure, and the impacts of climate change.
It will only be possible if their resilience to shocks such as climate change is improved. Resilient landscapes—where natural resources and biodiversity thrive in interconnected ecosystems that can adapt to change and protect people from losses—are important to the work of ending poverty and boosting prosperity.
- Countries can respond to natural disasters better and assist victims faster if social protection systems are in place
- Social protection systems have a role in addressing the human side of disaster and climate risks.
- Global collaboration on mitigating disaster and climate risk through social protection systems facilitates solutions
Together with government counterparts and donor partners, they extracted lessons and came out with a compelling message: countries can respond to natural disasters better and assist victims faster if robust social protection systems are in place.