PARIS – From restoring degraded land to financing hydro-power dams and creating jobs for refugees, the world needs to come up with more innovative solutions to the linked challenges of climate change, poverty and insecurity, the president of the World Bank said.
“We’ve got to be creative in a way that we’ve never been before to tackle these situations,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said ahead of a UN climate summit in Paris.
Nearly 150 world leaders will address the conference today, and in the next two weeks 195 governments will work to seal a new deal to curb global warming.
Kim said he hoped the summit would yield both an ambitious deal that would regularly ramp up reductions in planet-warming emissions, and “daring” partnerships to tackle climate-related problems in the poorest countries.
Kim said droughts were sparking conflict over natural resources like food and water, and flooding was impoverishing people in places like Mozambique.
“There’s no question that the kind of impacts we’re seeing already in much of sub-Saharan Africa are leading to instability,” he said, adding that work to help people adapt to climate shifts must be stepped up. “We have to put more money and more effort into adaptation.”
Last week the bank launched an “Africa Climate Business Plan” that outlined investments to make the continent’s people, land, water and cities more resilient to climate pressures. It will also increase access to green energy and strengthen early warning systems.
The bank said it expected to contribute around US$5.7 billion of the US$16.1 billion plan. This will help them increase the share of its own financing dedicated to climate action by about a third by 2020.
Opportunities for investment include “climate-smart agriculture,” such as more drought-tolerant varieties of maize, wheat and rice, as well as reclaiming degraded land and weather-proofing roads.
“We can be so much better at everything from managing the current water supply to even desalination,” Kim said. “There are many ways of having an impact, and I don’t think we have done enough to bring together the development world and the climate change world.”
There is also a huge need for more energy in Africa, and clean energy options from solar and geothermal power to large-scale hydro-electricity should be harnessed to provide it, he said.
Some big dam projects in Africa have been criticised by environmental and human rights groups because they can harm biodiversity and displace people from their land.
But Kim said hydro-power projects could be done in a way that offsets the negative effects, and should not be ruled out while two thirds of sub-Saharan Africans have no access to electricity.
"There is not going to be some kind of low-energy idyllic future for Africa. They need energy for everything from lights for the schools to electricity for the incubators," he said.
"I am not saying hydro is the answer to everything. But I am saying taking it off the table while we have exploited it so effectively in the first world is just not fair," he added.
Currently less than 10 percent of Africa’s hydropower resources have been developed, he noted.
To get more finance flowing for energy projects, development banks need to partner with governments to use development aid grants and zero-interest loans to lower the risks and attract private sector investment, he added.
And creative partnerships need not be confined to climate change solutions, he said.
They could also help provide manufacturing jobs for Syrian refugees in Jordan, for example – an idea the World Bank is now exploring with the British government and others.