The United Nations has designated 31 October as World Cities Day to highlight the many challenges and opportunities of global urbanization.
In his new video blog series, Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez, Senior Director of the World Bank’s Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice (GPSURR), speaks with urban development specialists about what it takes to build sustainable cities – communities that are environmentally-friendly, competitive, inclusive, and resilient to disasters of today and disasters of tomorrow.
The World Region
The past month was full of climate-related stories in the media, including speeches by the Pope in Washington DC and New York, the joint China-US statement, and the announcement of China’s cap-and-trade scheme starting 2017.
We may still hear about differences of opinion on what is causing climate change and what needs to be done and by whom, but it is happening, and that efforts to resolve these differences are made in conventions and meetings, in houses of Congress, in media or public debate.
It has been a fascinating time to be in the United States and watch as the media and American public were transfixed by Catholic Pope Francis’ whirlwind three city sojourn to Washington DC, New York City and finally Philadelphia.
It was a trip of firsts. Pope Francis became the first Pope to address a joint session of the US Congress and then a day later marking another first in addressing the UN General Assembly just before member states unanimously adopted Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
It was fitting and profound to have the Pope frame the global goals’ agenda with his remarks, since in many ways his recently released encyclical, Laudato Si, embodies the integrated and indivisible nature of the sustainable development agenda.
It puts both environmental protection and social inclusion as part and parcel to ending poverty and extending dignity instead of being an add-on or at worst an afterthought.
Private investors bought price guarantees for 8.7 million tons of methane emission reduction in an innovative auction, attracting bidders from across the globe.
The Pilot Auction Facility for Methane and Climate Change Mitigation (PAF) provides support to businesses that invest in climate friendly projects. The first pilot auction was held online on July 15, 2015, auctioning off price guarantees, or put options, targeting methane reducing projects.
By providing a floor price for captured methane, the PAF offers private investors a financial incentive to fund carbon capture. Using an auction maximizes the impact of public funds dedicated to slowing climate change.
Here’s my journal entry from the day – July 15 – auction day (at last!)
By Stephanie Pfeifer, Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (Europe); Nathan Fabian, Investor Group on Climate Change (Australia/New Zealand); Chris Davis, Investor Network on Climate Risk (North America); and Alexandra Tracy, Asia Investor Group on Climate Change.
The British economist Lord Nicholas Stern has labelled climate change “the greatest market failure the world has ever seen.” Failing to put a price on carbon emissions leaves the market with no way to address the harm created by these emissions. And with no cost attached to a harmful activity, participants in the market have no incentive to pursue less harmful alternatives. Thankfully, this is changing.
About 40 national and more than 20 sub-national jurisdictions globally have implemented or are scheduled to implement carbon pricing schemes. The world’s emissions trading schemes are valued at about $30 billion, with China home to the world's second largest group of carbon markets, covering the equivalent of 1,115 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, after the 2,309 million tonnes covered by the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme.
This progress is good news, and furthering the spread of carbon pricing is essential. Putting a price on carbon reduces emissions and the costs associated with these emissions, costs that end up being borne by everyone, including companies and societies, through an array of impacts resulting from climate change.
Photo courtesy: Priya.Balraju1/Flickr
Many people have voiced pessimism over an international agreement to address climate change since the 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen fell short of expectations. The lack of a comprehensive, global effort to curb emissions; the failure by the United States to pass meaningful federal legislation, the continued recession in Europe; and, most recently, the election results in Australia have undermined efforts to put a price on carbon and dampened hope for market-based solutions to climate change.
The somber mood was evident at the Carbon Forum Asia, held in Bangkok between September 24 – 27. But participants at the event also found a glimmer of hope.
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released late last month, provides the strongest evidence thus far of how humans influence the Earth’s climate.
Weather hazards, already a present reality, are likely to become more extreme as a consequence of a rapidly warming planet. Floods, droughts, storm surges and heat waves threaten the lives and livelihoods of everyone, but disproportionately effect the poor who are often most vulnerable and exposed to disaster risks.
Building resilience in this new world requires investments on many fronts, including in the often-neglected and underfunded national meteorological and hydrological agencies that give nations the capacity and ability to warn and respond effectively to weather-related hazards.
It is not often that you find Indigenous Peoples from around the world meeting in one of the most important baroque castles of Germany. Perched on a cliff, with a natural moat created by the river Lahn, the castle of Weilburg allows a bird’s eye view of the surrounding forest landscape.
These forests were not always lush and thriving. Centuries before, the construction of the castle led to massive logging in the adjacent forests and finally the ruling aristocrat ordered restricted use of timber for construction and introduced a new building code. As a result, Weilburg became the national center of a novel construction technique using clay and straw, which is now seen in towns across Germany.
Coincidently, a new approach to tackling deforestation is also what 80 Indigenous Peoples’ leaders, government representatives, civil society practitioners and international experts from 24 countries discussed this week at a three day workshop in Weilburg’s castle.
The central challenge was to identify practical approaches to ensure the full and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples in REDD+, a performance-based mechanism for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. The meeting was jointly organized by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and the UN-REDD Programme.
Since the launch in 2008, the World Bank’s green bonds have grown quickly and reached an important milestone in August. Earlier, this month, the World Bank launched a US$550 million green bond bumping the total amount of World Bank green bonds issued to over $4 billion dollars since the green bond program began. This milestone prompted us to pause and take stock of the program and the new market it helped start.
As countries move toward a low-carbon, climate resilient future, the appetite for innovative climate finance is growing. One way to fill this financing need is through the capital markets. The World Bank’s green bonds, first launched in 2008, have been recognized as a catalyst for the growing market of climate bonds. This market is on its way to becoming an important source of funding for countries looking to grow in a clean and sustainable manner. A sampling of expected project results – over 165,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emission reduction benefits per year in Belarus, and 800,000 tons per year in China, reducing vulnerability to climate-related flooding and water scarcity flood events for about 500,000 farmer households in Indonesia, and producing 6MWhs of electricity out of a landfill in Jordan – highlights the crucial role green bonds and other innovative funding mechanisms could play in financing the fight against climate change.
The World Bank started issuing green bonds in 2008, responding to a group of Scandinavian pension funds interested in supporting activities that address mitigation and adaptation to climate. Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB) was the lead manager of this inaugural green bond.
The flooding of New Orleans, caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, illustrates the vulnerability of cities that are highly dependent on coastal defenses. Photo: NOAA [http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Katrina-new-orleans-flooding3-2005.jpg]
Increasing flood risks create a major political and institutional challenge for the world’s coastal cities, as ambitious and proactive action at the local level over the next decades will be needed to avoid large-scale flood disasters. However, the implementation of flood risk management policies meets many obstacles.
In a recent study written with colleagues Colin Green, Robert Nicholls and Jan Corfee-Morlot as part of an OECD project on urban vulnerability, we estimate how flood risks could change in the future in 136 coastal cities, in response to increasing population and wealth, local environmental change, and climate change. We find that because current flood defenses and urbanization patterns have been designed for past environmental conditions, even a moderate change in sea level is sufficient to make them inadequate, thus magnifying flood losses to catastrophic levels. If no action is taken to reduce flood vulnerability, most coastal cities would become inhospitable and dangerous places to live, with annual losses in excess of US$1 trillion dollars.
What can be done?
Our analysis suggests that upgrading defenses could mitigate these losses and the impacts of rising sea levels. However, these upgrades need to include a package of risk management policies. First, coastal defenses should make use of the protection the environment can offer for free: Marshes, seagrass beds, coastal and kelp forests, and coral reefs provide natural buffers that absorb the energy from waves and storms, making it easier and cheaper to protect urban development. In addition artificial constructions are also required to provide full protection. We are not only talking about dykes: a city surrounded by dykes will need pumping systems to drain rainfall water, and a harbor will need moving barriers to let ships in and out of the port.