The World Bank's new Environmental and Social Framework, four years in the making, is designed to ensure that the approximately $30 billion the bank invests each year goes to projects that are safe for people and the environment. This framework is likely to have an impact on the policies of other development banks and governments around the globe.
Blog Posts: world bank
The World Bank consistently makes the link between poverty elimination and the need to curb climate change. Yet a WRI analysis shows that of the investments the World Bank financed between 2012 and 2013, only one-quarter addressed climate change risks.
Dr. Karin Kemper, director of climate policy and finance in the World Bank Group’s (WBG) Climate Group, shares the Bank's current and future plans to more fully incorporate climate change mitigation and adaptation into its international development agenda.
Although the World Bank has successfully addressed a number of important economic and social risks in its projects, it is falling short in recognizing climate risks. As the World Bank refreshes its long-term strategies, this is a key moment to bring climate change—and more broadly, sustainability—to the forefront of its investment agenda.
The world will need to spend an estimated US$5.7 trillion annually in green infrastructure by 2020 in order to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees C. This week, it took a step toward creating an institution – the Green Climate Fund – that will be pivotal in achieving this goal.
One of the biggest successes from 2009’s COP 15 conference was securing funding for climate change adaptation and mitigation in developing countries. Donor nations agreed to “provide new and additional resources […] approaching $30 billion for the period 2010–2012, with balanced allocation between adaptation and mitigation.” They also committed to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020.
But the agreement left a key question unresolved: how should funding be “balanced” between adaptation and mitigation? Should the funding balance be 50/50 between adaptation and mitigation or should it based on each country’s needs? Should funding include both private and public sector investment? These are some of the questions that negotiators will need to address during COP 19 in Warsaw.
But whatever they decide as being a “balanced commitment,” one thing is clear: finance for adaptation needs to increase in the coming years.
U.S. public financing for overseas coal-fired power is likely coming to an end.
That’s the clear signal from the U.S. Department of Treasury’s announcement earlier this week. At institutions like the World Bank, where the United States is the largest shareholder, this decision holds real significance.
Under the new leadership of Dr. Jim Yong Kim, the World Bank Group continues to reinvent itself to meet the challenges of global development. That reinvention will continue this Saturday, when the Board of Governors is expected to endorse a new strategy for the institution. If properly implemented across the Group, the strategy could help boost the institution’s contribution to equitable and sustainable development. Two areas of focus will be especially important, including how the Group handles its work on climate change and selects its investments.
Ensuring that development projects benefit both people and the planet is becoming more and more of a priority.
Environmental and social impact assessments (ESIA) have been in use for decades to consider the effects of projects such as dams, highways, and oil and gas development. Over the years, ESIAs have evolved to cover both environmental and social impacts, including health and human rights.
However, the assessments often study social or environmental factors separately from one another, missing the many ways in which they interact.
In 2012, important financial institutions--the International Finance Corporation and the Equator Principles Financial Institutions--took a welcome step towards promoting a more holistic approach to impact assessment, requiring their clients to address ecosystem services as part of their due diligence.
Incorporating the concept of ecosystem services into ESIA can ensure that affected stakeholders, project developers, financial, and governmental institutions understand the full scope of a proposed project’s impacts on people and the environment. But as I recently learned at the annual conference of the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) two weeks ago, there’s a lot of uncertainty about what the concept of “ecosystem services” really means and how it can be applied to conducting impact assessments. It’s a good time to clear up confusion on this critically important yet complex issue.
Within our lifetimes, the world could be free of widespread, extreme poverty, replaced instead with shared prosperity and environmental and fiscal balance. That was the vision World Bank President Jim Yong Kim outlined at his first Spring Meetings in Washington, D.C. last week.
In a period of economic uncertainty, social exclusion, and climate and environmental crises, these goals hold immense promise. At the same time, for an institution already grappling with its redefined role in the coming decades, the Bank’s current capacity to support this vision will be tested.
The Common Vision for the World Bank Group that was approved by the World Bank’s Development Committee on April 20th includes two goals the Bank will work towards:
alleviating extreme poverty by dropping the percentage of people living on less than U.S.$ 1.25 a day to 3 percent by 2030, and
promoting shared prosperity by fostering income growth of the bottom 40 percent of the population in every country
These two core goals are supplemented by the Bank’s understanding that they cannot be achieved without credible action to ensure environmental sustainability, especially on climate change.
The World Bank’s annual spring meetings take place this week in Washington, D.C. One big topic on the agenda is how to update the World Bank’s “safeguard” policies. Created in the early 1990s, these policies ensure that the Bank considers the social and environmental effects of proposed projects. For example, the safeguards require those borrowing money to assess the project’s environmental impacts and to compensate households who are negatively affected.
The full suite of safeguards is now under review for the first time. Among other things, the Bank hopes to make its safeguard policies reflect changes in the global economic and political landscape that have occurred in recent decades.
World Bank Safeguards vs. National Safeguards
One question on the table is how the World Bank safeguards should interact with national systems already in place in recipient countries. Since the creation of the Bank’s safeguards, many countries have strengthened their own rules and institutions to ensure that large-scale projects are implemented in a manner that protects people and the environment. These include, for instance, laws requiring environmental impact assessments, or government agencies to oversee land use changes. Relying on these domestic systems can potentially improve protection of people and the environment. National laws, for example, allow governments and citizens to work within their own familiar structures, and they’re sometimes more appropriate for local circumstances than Bank policies.
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