Letter from the Chairman & President
This year marks the 35th anniversary of WRI. Since we opened our doors in 1982, the world has enjoyed a faster rise in prosperity and a greater decline in poverty than in any equivalent period in history. More than a billion people have been lifted out of poverty, those above the poverty line have risen by roughly 4 billion, and global income and output has tripled in real terms.
James A. Harmon
Chairman of the Board
But sadly, the price of this progress has been much too high in terms of environmental damage and in rising inequality, which in turn threaten future progress. Each year for the past three years, a new record has been set for global temperatures. Arctic sea ice shrank to its lowest extent since satellite monitoring began 31 years ago, and a new miles-wide crack in an Antarctic ice shelf grew in the southern summer. More than 1.2 billion people live in areas of water scarcity, a number that is growing sharply. Around seven million people are dying from air pollution each year, and that number is also rising. Traffic congestion costs many cities more than 10 percent of their income; urban sprawl costs the U.S. economy around $1 trillion per year. In addition to these troubling physical trends, rising inequality and a sense of exclusion has led to widespread disillusionment in several countries, and many people feel excluded from the promise of a globally connected world.
Rising prosperity doesn’t need to lead to such adverse impacts, of course. WRI’s own work over the years has demonstrated that smart policies for equitable growth and environmental protection support rather than contradict each other. Recent work by the New Climate Economy Commission, of which WRI is the Managing Partner, has demonstrated that bold action on climate can promote new technologies, greater competitiveness, more jobs and greater fairness. This enlightened view is gaining traction in many parts of the world. It explains why more than 200 global corporations have made commitments to decarbonize their operations and supply chains; why 7,000 mayors have committed their cities to follow low-carbon growth paths; why China, India and many other emerging nations are implementing huge investment programs in clean energy; and why in the past few months more than 50 countries and international institutions have come together to form a partnership to accelerate commitments under the Paris Agreement. WRI is supporting each of these movements.
President and CEO
This understanding is not shared by the new U.S. administration, which is weakening environmental and climate policies, believing, contrary to the evidence, that they undermine jobs and growth. WRI and our partners will continue to provide evidence that this approach is short-sighted and very much out of the mainstream. We are encouraged that nearly three-quarters of Americans support strong action on climate change, and nearly 1,000 U.S. corporations have urged the administration to continue U.S. leadership on climate action. At WRI, we are increasing our engagement with states, cities and private actors to support such leadership.
This underlines the essential nature of our work at the Institute. Accurate, reliable information and analysis is the currency we provide, along with effective tools to help governments, businesses, civil society organizations and individuals make sense of the undeniable environmental changes we see around the globe. Each year we manage for results and measure our success by our outcomes.
WRI’s own work over the years has demonstrated that smart policies for equitable growth and environmental protection support rather than contradict each other.
In the pages that follow, it is our privilege to share with you the role the Institute plays with partners all over the world. In 2016, we expanded our global reach to include a new office in Addis Ababa, which will provide a hub for our growing work in Africa. Our presence there joins offices in Brazil, China, Europe, India, Indonesia, Mexico and the United States. We are active in more than 50 countries on six continents as we address the urgent challenges of our times.
Our 2016 Top Outcomes give a flavor of our work. A major thrust over the past year has been turning the promises of the Paris Agreement into action – through the creation of the NDC Partnership and on-the-ground support. African countries committed to restore more than 63 million hectares (155 million acres) of degraded land through AFR100, established by WRI and partners. Through meetings WRI convened, Mexico and Mexico City developed energy efficiency standards for buildings. India took the first step to cut road fatalities in half by 2020, drawing on 15 years of WRI urban transport experience. WRI worked with Chinese representatives to inform China’s groundbreaking Green Finance roadmap. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, WRI held meetings with stakeholders to inform new rules on community forest rights.
Working with Brazil’s Ministry of Cities, WRI developed an easy-to-use method for cities to plan for greater sustainable mobility. U.S. companies working with WRI have contracted more than 450 megawatts of new solar generation since 2015 through regulated utilities in Nevada and North Carolina. WRI’s Greenhouse Gas Protocol helped Chinese megacity Chengdu set the ambitious goal of peaking emissions by 2025, while WRI’s work with Indian companies yielded corporate commitments to reduce GHG emissions intensity significantly by 2020. And forests and community land rights are better protected across the world through the use of WRI-managed Global Forest Watch, an online interactive monitoring system tracking tree cover loss in near-real time, that has empowered stakeholders—from ordinary citizens and civil society, to businesses and governments—to detect and report illegal practices previously undetected.
This important work has been made possible by the generosity of our donors and collaboration with our partners, for which we are deeply grateful.
We invite you to learn more about our work in this report. We hope you will share your thoughts and suggestions and join our worldwide community of supporters and friends.
With our best regards,
James A. Harmon
Chairman of the Board
President and CEO