The sustainable management of the environment and natural resources is vital for economic growth and human wellbeing. When managed well, renewable natural resources, watersheds, productive landscapes and seascapes can provide the foundation for sustained inclusive growth and poverty reduction by providing for hundreds of millions of livelihoods, regulating the air, water and soil on which we all depend, generating sizeable tax revenue and forming a unique and cost-effective buffer against extreme weather events and climate change.

Biodiversity and healthy ecosystems are essential for the long-term growth of economic sectors such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism: a third of the world’s 100 largest cities draw their water supply from protected areas. More than 300 million people depend on fisheries, aquaculture and ocean tourism for their livelihoods. Three quarters of the world’s top 115 food crops depend on animal pollination.

In developing countries, forests, lakes, rivers and oceans provide a significant share of households’ diets, fuel and incomes, and represent a precious safety net in times of crisis, particularly for 78% of the world’s extreme poor who live in rural areas.    

The integrity and functionality of these vital natural assets, however, are increasingly compromised: 60 to 70% of the world’s ecosystems are degrading faster than they can recover. Mismanagement of the environment and natural resources results in significant economic losses: for instance, $50–$100 billion are lost each year due to ocean fisheries mismanagement. There were about 9 million early deaths due to exposure to soil, water and air pollution in 2012, according to the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution. Most of that impact was felt in developing countries.

Last Updated: Apr 02,2015

The World Bank Group (WBG) works to achieve a world free of poverty. Whether financing access to electricity for school children in rural areas or investing in mass transit infrastructure to create more livable cities, the WBG views development in all sectors through the lens of social inclusion and environmental sustainability to ensure that progress benefits the poor and does not come at the expense of future generations.

The World Bank Group's Environment Strategy for FY 2012–2022 articulates a vision for a "Green, Clean and Resilient World for All."

The Bank’s Environment and Natural Resources Global Practice provides expertise, technical assistance and financing to help low- and middle-income countries manage land, sea and freshwater natural resources in a sustainable way that helps create jobs, improve livelihoods, enhance ecosystem services (such as carbon sequestration, pollination or water regulation), decrease pollution and increase resilience to climate change.

The organization also supports informed decision-making through analysis and using methodologies such as environmental economics and natural capital accounting. This is because countries are in a better position to seize growth opportunities, weigh pollution costs and climate risks, identify synergies, and understand the repercussions of policy and investment choices to support sustainable development when they are equipped with evidence and data.  

Safeguard policies (currently under review) underpin the Bank’s efforts to end extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity in a sustainable manner.

Over the last three years (FY2012-14), the World Bank (IBRD/IDA) committed $11.7 billion in loans, credits and grants to support investments in environmental policy, governance and institutions, land management, pollution management, the sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity, action on climate change, and water resource management. The Environment and Natural Resources Global Practice, set up on July 1, 2014, oversees a portfolio of about 165 projects worth over $5 billion.

Over the last decade, the Bank has managed the largest source of multilateral development funds for protecting biodiversity, supporting sustainable forest management and fighting wildlife crime. However, much more needs to be done to make the environment a priority for both governments and citizens, and to mobilize appropriate financing. The Bank therefore is an active member and supporter of a number of critical knowledge, financing and awareness raising partnerships. 


Last Updated: Apr 02,2015

  • In Brazil, the Bank worked with partners to support the creation, expansion and strengthening of around 70 million hectares of protected areas in the Amazon rainforest, through a program that combines both conservation and socioeconomic development.
  • In Albania, a project which put land under local community management and promoted the protection of important watersheds by integrating forest, pasture and agricultural management, resulted in a 28% increase in incomes from forests and agriculture.
  • In Indonesia, where two-thirds of coral reefs are considered threatened by overfishing, the Coral Reef Rehabilitation and Management Project, has helped 358 village communities by establishing marine protected areas, reducing illegal and destructive fishing practices and boosting income from crucial marine resources.
  • In West Africa, where fisheries support almost 3 million jobs, a regional program designed to increase the overall wealth generated by sustainable fisheries is producing results: The incidence of illegal fishing has dropped by 83% in Liberia; public revenues from the fisheries sector have more than tripled in 5 years in Sierra Leone; and in Senegal, restricted fishing zones are helping increase yields and incomes.
  • In Africa, a $25 million program has removed over 3,000 tons of obsolete and dangerous pesticides from close to 900 contaminated sites in Ethiopia, Mali, Tanzania, Tunisia and South Africa.
  • In the past two decades, the World Bank has worked with China to phase out more than 219,000 tons of Ozone Depleting Substances—the equivalent of annual carbon emissions from more than 186 million passenger vehicles—that contribute to climate change.
  • Botswana is using natural capital accounting methods advanced by the Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES) partnership to develop more sustainable economic policies in the face of water shortages: "Water accounts" are helping the government to identify sectors—including agriculture, mining, and tourism—that can grow with minimal water consumption.
  • In India, the Punjab Rural Water Supply and Sanitation project increased water availability while mitigating negative environmental impacts of water supply and drainage construction work. Environmental impact studies were part of project preparation. The next critical challenge for the state will be solving the issue of chemically contaminated groundwater and ensuring the sustainability of water sources.


Last Updated: Apr 02,2015

Multi-stakeholder partnerships are an increasingly important aspect of World Bank engagement on environment, pooling expertise, access, and resources. These partnerships comprise public sector, private sector, multi-lateral and civil society actors to advance collective action on some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges.

The World Bank recently created a Pollution Management and Environmental Health (PMEH) program with multi-donor support to help developing countries reduce deadly pollution and build healthier and more economically stable communities. Many of the policies, tools and technologies for addressing air and water pollution already exist and could, if implemented at scale, save millions of lives, especially in fast-urbanizing developing countries such as China, India and Nigeria.

Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES) is a World Bank-led global partnership to mainstream natural capital accounting into countries’ national accounting systems and development planning. This recognizes the important contributions to the economy of natural capital like forests, wetlands, and agricultural land which are not fully captured in national accounts. WAVES is now working in Botswana, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Indonesia, Madagascar, the Philippines and Rwanda.

Hosted by the World Bank, the Program on Forests (PROFOR) was created in 1997 to support in-depth analysis, innovative processes, knowledge-sharing and dialogue in the belief that sound forest policy can lead to better outcomes on issues ranging from livelihoods and financing to illegal logging, biodiversity and climate change. PROFOR has made forest governance a priority, providing technical assistance to improve monitoring of forest activities and helping create consensus and political will around priority reforms.

The Global Program on Fisheries (PROFISH) was established with key donors and stakeholders to engage the World Bank in improving environmental sustainability, human wellbeing and economic performance in the world’s fisheries and aquaculture, with a focus on the welfare of the poor in fisheries and fish farming communities in the developing world.

TerrAfrica is a nationally-driven global partnership that addresses land degradation in Sub-Saharan Africa by supporting sustainable land and water management practices in 24 countries.

The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) was launched in 2000 to support priority high-biodiversity sites and conservation corridors, including production landscapes. To date, CEPF has provided over US$166 million to more than 1,800 civil society organizations across 22 global biodiversity hotspots.

The Save Our Species initiative combines the financial weight and technical expertise of the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility, science from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the resources and ingenuity of the private sector to create a mechanism that channels funding to species conservation projects for the greatest impact. To date, SOS is helping protect more than 200 species in 50 countries while communicating about the successes with a growing support base. In 2013 alone, SOS announced new investments of US$2.7 million for 32 projects managed by NGOs.

The International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) launched in 2010 brings together Interpol, the CITES Secretariat, World Customs Organization and UNODC with the World Bank to promote effective law enforcement nationally and internationally in support of sustainable development and equitable benefit-sharing for the proceeds from sustainable natural resource management. The Consortium has developed a Wildlife and Forest Crime Analytic Toolkit that it is now being applied in several countries to analyze their state of law enforcement.

The Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP) is a collaborative body of bilateral, multilateral, and international agencies, country governments, academia and civil society that assists low-and middle-income countries to reduce the human health impacts of chemicals, waste and toxic pollution. GAHP’s members include the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, European Commission, GIZ, the Ministries of Environment of Mexico, Ghana, Indonesia, Madagascar, Peru, Philippines, Senegal and Uruguay, UNIDO, UNEP and UNDP, among others. Pure Earth / Blacksmith Institute serves as Secretariat for the GAHP.

Last Updated: Apr 02,2015