Talking about climate change this weekend

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ImageIn the first few hours of the IMF/World Bank annual meetings this week, the subject of climate change has come up again and again.


Our partners in Sub-Saharan Africa live in one of the most natural-resource dependent regions in the world: 70% of people depend on rainfed agriculture; fisheries employ an estimated 25 million people throughout the continent; and wood fuels account for more than 90% of household energy consumption in the region. If developed wisely, natural resources can and will drive Africa’s future growth.


But the challenge of sustainable development is made more difficult by climate change. As the World Bank Vice President for Africa, Obiageli Ezekwesili, has said: “Climate change is a development challenge. You cannot address one without addressing the other.”


Thankfully – there are experiences around the world – including from Africa – that show that climate-smart growth is possible. And we’ll be talking about those experiences this weekend during the IMF/World Bank annual meetings. Africa is ready to test and scale-up climate-resilient development strategies and leverage new financing to leapfrog some of the older technologies that contribute to climate change. Image


The World Bank is working with African partners on innovative responses to adaptation and mitigation – by building mass transit in Lagos, supporting cross-border water resource planning in the Niger Basin, and making buildings that can withstand cyclones in Madagascar. 

What else are we doing with partners? The Congo Basin tropical forest is second in size to the Amazon. In fact, the Congo’s forest holds an estimated reservoir of 24-39 giga tons  of carbon – equivalent to up to four times the worldwide human caused greenhouse gas emissions. Until recently, deforestation rates have been quite slow thanks to the “passive protection” that comes with low population densities and limited infrastructure. But with much-needed economic growth in one of the world’s poorest countries comes improved agriculture and infrastructure development. This reduces the “passive protection” of the Congo Basin and now we are working with partners to model deforestation and degradation trends based on local development trajectories. A study will be released soon showing that the major drivers of deforestation are from outside the forest sector. An effective strategy for protecting the Congo Basin forest must consider how transport, energy and agriculture can grow while simultaneously minimizing impact on the surrounding forest. The World Bank will work with partners to strike that balance.


In another example, electricity access in Sub-Saharan Africa is still woefully low – 560 million people in the region still do not have access to modern energy. Without energy, factories and businesses cannot function efficiently; hospitals and schools cannot operate fully or safely; and basic services that many people take for granted cannot be offered. For me, the bottom line is: without economic growth there can be no poverty reduction, and without energy there can be no growth.


I encourage people to read about the project in Ethiopia where we helped distribute 5,000,000 Compact Fluorescent Lamps and replace inefficient street lighting.  

Let us know what you think. We’ll be talking about these projects and others like them during the annual meetings.

Join us for the dialogue through our Open Forum and share your ideas on climate change and development in Africa. 



Jamal Saghir

Professor of Practice, Institute for the Study of International Development, McGill University

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