When poverty meets climate change: A critical challenge that demands cross-cutting solutions

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A boy flies a kite near a destroyed house in Saint Louis, Senegal—where rising waters destroy houses on the coastline.
A boy flies a kite near a house destroyed by rising waters in Saint Louis on Senegal's coast. Senegal is part of IDA, .which is supporting the poorest countries in the face climate change impacts. © Vincent Tremeau/World Bank

This week, all eyes are on the COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. The stakes are high as no country is immune to the effects of climate change. The connection between climate change and its impact on human wellbeing is increasingly visible.  Unchecked, climate change will push up to 130 million people into poverty over the next 10 years—unravelling hard-won development gains—and could cause over 200 million people to migrate within their own countries by 2050. 

The climate crisis is a deeply unfair one: the poorest people in the world contribute the least to climate change.  In fact, 74 of the world’s poorest countries —those served by the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s multibillion-dollar fund for the poorest countries —account for less than one tenth of global greenhouse gas emissions. These countries are also hardest hit by the impacts of climate change.


"The climate crisis is a deeply unfair one: the poorest people in the world contribute the least to climate change."


  

The World Bank today is the world’s largest multilateral financier of climate action in developing countries.  This includes support from IDA, which is sharply focused on supporting countries with investments in clean energy at scale to prevent them from being locked into polluting infrastructure and helping them achieve their energy access goals. 

At the same time, some climate impacts are already happening, affecting countries and communities around the world. Therefore, half of all IDA’s financing was dedicated to adaptation and resilience in the fiscal year 2021. With a keen eye to local and country-specific needs, IDA is financing projects that prioritize a systemic approach and recognize the interconnectedness of challenges.  

Over the last decade, IDA countries have been hit by nearly eight times as many natural disasters relative to the 1980s. Small Island Developing States and fragile and conflict-affected countries face high climate risk for unique but equally pressing reasons. In the meantime, IDA countries are in the race to become competitive in a rapidly changing global economy that increasingly values green growth, green jobs, and green sectors. It’s a tall order: work simultaneously to address increasing climate impacts, strengthen resilience to shocks, and seize new opportunities to thrive in a post-COVID-19 world.

This is certainly not the first crisis through which IDA has been called on to support countries. In fact, the institution is anchored in successive cycles of preparing for, responding to and recovering from crises—be it Ebola, droughts affecting millions, or global pandemics. But climate change is certainly the most complex, far-reaching crisis so far. Climate change cannot be addressed with simple single-sector, single-country, or single-organization solutions.  Instead, it requires collaboration and knowledge-sharing across interest groups and borders. IDA has long provided this kind of leadership and rallied stakeholders for a common cause. 

This unprecedented confluence of challenges has prompted IDA to build on decades of lessons and systems to help countries reduce emissions, adapt to climate change, and mitigate impacts of disasters. For example, in the fiscal year 2021, 61% of total IDA climate finance was for adaptation and IDA helped 62 countries institutionalize disaster risk reduction as a national priority. In Niger, better land management brought a 6% increase in crop yields to help cope with the effects of climate variability. In Mozambique, rapid response helped reduce damage from two major back-to-back cyclones that affected 1.8 million people. And many IDA investments also support nature-based solutions: A coastal zone project has expanded mangroves for storm protection in Bangladesh, and the Kiribati climate resilience project, which improved coastal infrastructure, is also harvesting rainwater to overcome the saltwater intrusion due to rising sea levels.

Realizing the holistic, interconnected nature of challenges—and solutions—has been a gamechanger. Strengthening disease surveillance and lab capacity for pandemics also enhances a country’s ability to respond to climate-related communicable disease threats. Low-carbon and resilient development offers tremendous opportunities for growth of clean technologies and green jobs.  Investing in clean cooking and sustainable energy access can have a positive impact on women and girls. The list of win-wins goes on and IDA is well positioned to implement them.

In mid-December, the next cycle of IDA financing—known as IDA20—will be replenished one year early in order to meet historic country needs. With IDA and its partners uniquely placed to address this extraordinary nexus of challenges, stakeholders stand ready to step up and give the most vulnerable people a fair chance at recovery and resilience.  

 

The blog is part of a series on ways to ensure a resilient recovery from COVID-19 in the world’s poorest countries. For the latest, follow @WBG_IDA and #IDAworks

Authors

Akihiko Nishio

World Bank Vice President of Development Finance (DFi)

Join the Conversation

Valeria Chupina
December 03, 2021

I’m all for holistic approach, but when we address poverty, our efforts tend to impact symptoms rather than causes. Concern Worldwide names 11 causes of poverty, among them poor education, unemployment, gender Inequality. Come to think of, poor education leads to fewer opportunities to be employed, and to women subjugation. So, education, or lack of it, can be regarded among basic causes of poverty. If we could dedicate efforts to education in rural areas, especially women education, it is possible that by 2030 we’d be able to see the growth in gender equality and welfare and tackle the climate adaptation.

Shamin Qamar
December 03, 2021

Send me your articles please sir

Nardina Grande
December 03, 2021

My daughter is in a Canadian university environmental conservation program and I am a government employee who is interested in receiving more information on how we can help IDA and The World Bank DFi department achieve its mandate. Thank you for a wonderful article Mr. Nishio. It was clear, concise, encouraging and hopeful for myself and future generations who hold the fate of this planet in their hands, hearts and minds.