World Bank puts climate change at the top of its agenda | Pacific Beat

World Bank puts climate change at the top of its agenda

World Bank puts climate change at the top of its agenda

Updated 21 March 2013, 18:39 AEST

The World Bank's Vice President for Sustainable Development is urging the international community to heed the plight of Pacific Island countries and take action on climate change.

Vice President, Rachel Kyte, will tell an audience at the Australian National University late this afternoon that Pacific nations will suffer higher sea level rise than other parts of the world - for some, threatening their very existence.

She warns Australia will see some of the most extreme droughts, with summer temperatures of over 40 degrees becoming commonplace.

Ms Kyte told Jemima Garrett the World Bank's new President Jim Kim, has put climate change high on the Bank's agenda.

Presenter: Jemima Garrett

Speaker:Rachel Kyte, the World Bank's Vice President for Sustainability

KYTE: It means as an organisation that it's focused on helping countries end poverty and helping countries build a shared prosperity for the future that we understand that that is not going to be possible. If climate change continues at the rate at which we and the science predict. And so, imagine we've laid the table, ready for the economic and social solutions to ending poverty and building prosperity and we're about to rip the table cloth from underneath all of the plates and sauces, because climate change is going to, not only halt the progress we're making, but actually, in some cases, perhaps roll it back.

GARRETT: President Jim Kim said there are four actions that would make the biggest difference to climate change. What's he suggesting exactly?

KYTE: Well, I think rather than asking ourselves the question in the past of what we can do more or what can we do less, what should we do differently to try to mitigate climate change and help build the resilience of the poor in particular. We started asking ourselves a different question, which is, given the urgency that the science would indicate, what are the least number of most important things that need to be done at the global level in the international community to get those emissions reduced. The four degree world that we talk about, that science reveals is not unstoppable and so the least number of most important things we believe include, getting a global price on carbon, we believe it includes removing harmful fossil fuel and farm and fish subsidies from the global economy, really working on the way in which we build cities, because 75% of humanity will live in cities and 80% of global emissions will come from them and then learning how to farm differently.

Agriculture or climate smart agriculture by changing the technologies and the approaches that we use in farming actually offers us the opportunity to take carbon out of the atmosphere, while providing livelihoods and while increasing agricultural productivity. So cities, agriculture, carbon and subsidies are a good place to start.

GARRETT: Last month, you addressed the United Nations Security Council on Climate Change and you were particularly impressed by the contribution of Marshall Islands Minister, Tony De Brum. Why?

KYTE: Well, I think you could hear a pin drop, because Minister De Brum told the story of going to the Security Council 35 years ago in a delegation that was asking the United Nations and the Trusteeship Council in those days to grant Marshall Islands its independence and he had to go to the Security Council to ask for the Security Council's support. Thirty five years later, he could never have predicted that he would be back at the Security Council this time asking the permanent five members and the other members of the Security Council to help the Marshall Islands survive, not just get independence and yet climate change is not seen as an issue that should be on the Security Council's agenda on a regular basis. The poignancy, the power of his words, the fact that he could point to the Marshall Islands permanent representatives of the United Nations and talk about a atoll and a community that has disappeared now, not in 20 years or 30 years, but right now I think just halted everybody and made people realise that this is not happening to somebody else over there in the future, it's happening to somebody right now and somebody right within our midst.

GARRETT: Despite the dire predictions in the World Bank's recent Turn Down the Heat Report, you say there is cause for optimism, particularly through Green Growth. Why?

KYTE: The solutions are known, this is not as if we have to find a new rocket science. We can make economic growth more efficient in the way in which it uses natural resources, that's what we call Green Growth or Clean Growth. The growth can also be made more inclusive, so that policies can target the poorer within society. The world has become much more equal, but individual countries have become much more unequal within their own domestic economies. So we know many of the things that need to be done. I talked about removing fossil fuels subsidies. If we were able to do that, that would realise hundreds-of-billions of dollars that could be repurposed and invested in the industries of tomorrow, in the farming methods of tomorrow, in the forestry and management practices of tomorrow. So we do know many of the things that need to be done, but we need the political will and the ability to take short term and long term views of policy shifts. We really need to improve our performance there, not necessarily find new economic tools that we don't have today.

GARRETT: Disaster preparedness is increasingly important in a warming world. The World Bank's established the Pacific Catastrophe Risk Assessment and Financing Initiative. How will that help?

KYTE: The key to being able to adapt to climate change is really building resilience and so this resilience is about being able to spread your risk across a broader spectrum of time and a broader geography and so the Pacific Catastrophe Risk Assessment and Financing Initiative actually was drawn from something that we experimented with in the Caribbean and we see the catastrophe risk insurance as a very important way to build the resilience of communities that are at risk from increasing frequency and increasing intensity of disasters and so we see insurance, not just through catastrophe risk, but also micro-insurance has been a key enhancer of the resilience which is already in communities, it's already in households, and, of course, the Pacific Island I think and Pacific Islanders and Pacific Island countries are the greatest sort of manifestation of the kind of resilience that we need to be building going forward.

GARRETT: A lot of this revolves around infrastructure, but, of course, making infrastructure climate resilient is expensive. How can Pacific Island countries actually get ahead here?

KYTE: Yes, we calculate globally that there is a trillion dollar gap, that's US dollar. It's a one trillion US dollars gap in the infrastructure needs of the middle income countries and low income countries of the world and the financing that is flowing towards infrastructure. If you were to make all of that infrastructure climate resilient, which it needs to be, then that number goes up to about 1.3 or 1.4 trillion dollars. Accessing finance from public sources that will leverage private investment into the kinds of infrastructure needed is something that we spend a lot of our time focusing on and we're trying to make climate investment funds and other investment funds focused on resilience available to Pacific Islands. In fact, in Samoa, we are supporting government efforts to make a coastal road climate resilient and that's bringing public money to invest in the additional capital cost of what it would take to build a road and make it climate resilient. This is a very important road, because it links the airport with the capital and passes through the main economic artery of Samoa. So we have to blend public finance with private investment.

GARRETT: Internationally, governments aren't working well to tackle global warming. What are you seeing from the private sector?

KYTE: Well first of all, when you look at a level of account of 193 countries, so that's the member states of the United Nations and their negotiations I think it's easy to become disconcerted at the lack of speed in the process. But if you start looking at a smaller level of account, if you start looking around the world, you'll see incredible coalitions of what we call the working, coming together around specific actions where progress can be made, where you're not caught up in the debate at the global level. And in those coalitions of the working, we are seeing the private sector and the public sector very well aligned in wanting to see action, because for the private sector, understanding your risks, the risks in your business is a fundamental part of business and if a climate volatility, droughts, floods, increased frequent climate events are going to be part of the future then that poses a risk to your business, whether you are an agricultural firm, whether you're an infrastructure firm, whether you're an energy firm or whether you're in the services industry or the financial sector. And so we're seeing enormous alignment from all sectors within the private sector around the need for government action and what the private sector needs is certainty and predictability in the regulatory environment and what most industry leaders will tell you they need is a global price on carbon. If there were a price on carbon it will shift investment decisions and you're starting to see that in the countries where there are domestic markets evolving.

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