As world leaders come together at the UN General Assembly to adopt new sustainable development goals, climate change activists gear up for Climate Week in New York City and the Pope brings his message to the United Nations, a shared vision of our future is coming into clear focus.
If we are to eradicate poverty, we need to tackle climate change. And since 2008, the $8.1 billion Climate Investment Funds (CIF) has been showing it is possible for countries to pursue sustainable development in a way that does just that.
Middle East and North Africa
Basrah, Iraq: June 2011
I learn on Friday that our small World Bank energy team has received permission and security clearance to visit a production site within Iraq’s giant Rumaila Oil field southwest of the city the next afternoon. I am very excited about the visit. Rumaila is considered to be the fourth largest oil field in the world and produces over 1 million barrels of oil daily from several production batteries.
That night in the UK compound on the Basrah COB (Contingency Operating Base), our planning for Saturday’s field trips is cut short by a siren announcing an incoming rocket attack. I scurry to my bomb-proof pod and have bolted the heavily reinforced door just as I hear the thud-thud of ordnance landing. The attack was not directed at our space and was very short-lived. Nonetheless, it motivates me to properly use the body armor that has been assigned to me for the next day.
As planned, on Saturday I attend a short mission security briefing which details our route and my responsibilities should an incident occur. That afternoon, our convoy of four specially equipped vehicles begins an hour–long trek to the production zone along what I believe to be Highway 6. This is the road to Kuwait made famous by operation Desert Storm in 1990. Skeletons of burned-out military vehicles still appear periodically along the edges of what otherwise is a flat and desolate 30 kilometers of divided highway.
As a show of solidarity in the lead up to Cancun, a Mediterranean Climate Change Initiative (MCCI) was launched in the coastal town of Vouliagmeni, near Athens this past week. Fifteen member countries signed a declaration that binds them to work together on climate change. To take this initiative forward, an expert group is to meet in Malta in the coming months─it will be followed by a second MCCI event in Turkey.
Such solidarity is important. While not among the worse polluters in the world, the Mediterranean countries face an increase of four degrees in average temperature, and a 70% drop in precipitation in the coming years.
I participated in this event and shared the World Bank’s position and perspective. I was struck by the high level of commitment and the cooperative spirit of the host of the meeting; Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, was joined by the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad, Malta’s Premier Lawrence Gonzi, and other representatives of the Mediterranean countries.
This initiative , in some sense, is an historic event. Abandoning political differences, the Prime Ministerial commitments and the time devoted to provide national and regional perspectives, is commendable.
Delegates echoed the broad consensus regarding the magnitude and severity of the climate change problem and the cross border implications of the environmental degradation it will cause. A recent World Bank study has shown that warming in the Middle East region is about 50% higher than average global warming. Many of the largest cities in the region are located on the coast and are vulnerable to both sea-level rise and increases in extreme weather events─particularly Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Tunisia, and the UAE.
|Futuristic water design that would provide water for food in the desert, featured in The Guardian in 2008. Photograph: Exploration Architecture.|
“What are the new developments in water? Are there new technologies that developing countries could use to bypass expensive and cumbersome systems? What’s the next big thing that could solve the water crisis?” Politicians and the media often ask experts for new ideas to make water “interesting”. Yet, on the whole, water systems constructed today use much of the same technology they did 100 years ago.
People skeptical of hearing water experts talking about water crises put their faith in the human capacity to innovate. They point to the rapid decline in costs of taking the salt out of sea water as evidence that – when we really have to – we will innovate and make sure we can meet our water needs.
Necessity is the mother of invention. Israel, one of the driest countries in the world, has invested heavily in non-conventional sources of water. Desalination currently provides around 40 percent of Israel’s municipal water supply and the plan is for this source to provide 70 percent by 2015. In March, a team from the the World Bank's WDR2010 and Middle East North Africa units visited the largest operational reverse osmosis desalination plant in the world, in Hadera.
Desalination does indeed have potential to meet the municipal water needs of many people in the world – but only those who live near the sea.
Costs have come down to about $0.55 per cubic metre, about half what it was a decade ago. How have engineers managed this? Economies of scale are important. They have also been able to save on costs by designing an efficient system within the plant and by clever energy saving technology. Will the costs come down much further? About 10% say the Israeli experts. Not more.
Israel’s very careful management of every drop of water has led to an interesting problem.
Today is World Water Day, a good time to ponder the impacts of global climate change on water availability and quality. Julia Bucknall was part of a team of experts from the WDR2010 and the World Bank's Middle East and North Africa region visiting Israel last week to learn about innovation in water. The blog below is the first in three installments.
Can high-tech agriculture help developing countries get more from their water?
Israel invented drip irrigation, a technology that has spread rapidly since its introduction in the 1960s and which is widely touted as a key way for countries to close their water gap and be more adapted to climate change. It certainly does reduce evaporative losses, is often associated with a switch to high-value crops, and reduces fertilizer use when liquid fertilizer is added to the mix and delivered precisely to the root of the plant (a process that delights in the name “fertigation”). We often see important productivity gains.
Yet it’s not as simple as that.
|Photo © Julia Bucknall/World Bank|
The Gulf News is reporting that oil-rich United Arab Emirates is among the few developing countries to host a major international organization. Abu Dhabi will be the interim headquarters for the International Renewable Energy Agency, appealingly named IRENA. That fact is remarkable enough, but what is really surprising is that it was chosen over environmental powerhouses Germany, Austria, and Denmark.
The World Development Report is full of recommendations – transform agricultural subsidies in rich countries, make US$ 50bn a year in additional funding available for adaptation in developing countries – that readers may be tempted to dismiss as politically impossible. Yet political transformations are possible. Ten years ago would anyone have thought that Abu Dhabi could become a leader in sustainable development? The transformation reaches deep. Consultants making recommendations about the UAE's drinking water tell us that reform of the tariff structure is now being considered at the highest levels - not because it would improve water management, but because the efficiency gains predicted would reduce the country's carbon footprint.