The World Bank

Developing countries are hardest hit from climate change, World Bank


Source: The World Bank

People in the world’s poorest countries will suffer the earliest and the most from climate change, according to this year’s edition of the World Bank’s annual environmental review, Environment Matters. The report says that, due to their geographical location, low incomes, and low institutional capacity, as well as their greater reliance on climate-sensitive sectors like agriculture, the poorest countries and people (those least responsible for climate change and least able to cope with it) are suffering earliest and are poised to suffer most.  But adapting to climate change can also serve to meet the development objectives of countries.

This year’s Environment Matters focuses on the immediate necessity for developing countries to begin adapting to climate change.  The World Bank’s top climate change and environment experts, and other contributors, give frank assessments of what is currently known (and not known) on key subjects linked to adaptation, including climate variability, biodiversity, social dimensions, and water security, and makes concrete recommendations for the way forward.

“Climate action is development action,” said Katherine Sierra, World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development. “We are moving forward aggressively with our client countries to implement adaptive measures that improve the local environment, increase resilience to current and future climate variability and to natural disasters, and foster the dissemination of innovative technologies.”

According to the publication, climate change will provide opportunities to revisit current development practices. The report shows that with additional resources, climate change can be a stimulus to assist the transition to improved practices in land management, energy production, coastal protection, and so on, especially in the poorest countries.

Additional financial resources are necessary

“We are working hard to ensure that the developing countries continue to receive maximum levels of resources to reduce poverty and increase their economic growth to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, as well as to generate the additional financial resources they will need to adapt to climate change,” said Warren Evans, World Bank Director of Environment. “We can’t let climate change turn back the clock of progress for these countries.”

The recent replenishment by donor countries of the International Development Association (IDA) – the part of the World Bank that helps the world’s poorest countries by providing interest-free loans and grants – saw funding commitments rise by 42 percent to $14 billion per year.  This was partly in response to the World Bank’s submission that climate change will increase the resources needed to maintain levels of benefits to those countries that depend on it.  According to the report, comprehensive climate risk management in IDA projects will likely be the largest source of funding for adaptation in least developed countries in the immediate future.

Adaptation to meet development needs

The publication emphasizes that climate change – and developing countries’ adaptation to it – is a critical challenge that must be integrated into core development strategies.  Environment Matters highlights:

  • Access to clean, reliable energy sources is a core element of increasing climate resilience.
  • Working together with the Governments of the UK and the Netherlands and a number of research institutes, the World Bank has initiated research on the Economics of Adaptation to ask “How much will it cost?”  Policy makers worldwide need hard numbers to make more informed decisions.
  • Climate change may bring back water security challenges to countries that for a hundred years have enjoyed reliable water supplies and few, if any, water shocks.
  • Enhanced protection and management of natural ecosystems and more sustainable management of natural resources and agricultural crops will be a critical part of adaptation strategies.
  • Communities and households in vulnerable, resource-poor areas will need help to manage increased risk in their daily lives and adapt to adverse impacts of climate change. They must participate in adaptation strategizing, decision-making and actions that will directly affect them.
  • The World Bank and other agencies are gaining experience in working on a diverse array of insurance projects that help developing countries recover more quickly from the impacts of climate change and avoid utter ruin of community livelihoods or government budgets.

A comprehensive strategy is necessary

The Bank Group is currently developing a Strategic Framework for Climate Change to be presented to its Development Committee at Annual Meetings in October 2008. The Bank is also committed to reducing the carbon footprint of its own operations through the use of energy efficiency measures, renewable energy, and carbon offsets. Working with its partners, clients, and all sectors of society to turn the challenge of climate change into an opportunity for development leading to an inclusive and sustainable globalization is the challenging task ahead.

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