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Environment Overview

Pollution, overexploitation of fish stocks, biodiversity loss, and overuse of water and land increasingly threaten countries’ development efforts. The immediate and long-term consequences of climate change—from a warmer planet to more-acidic oceans—further threaten progress on poverty reduction and development.

Environmental degradation also hampers economic progress. Lack of action to address health-impairing air and water pollution, for example, is costing some countries the equivalent of 4 percent of GDP or more a year. Policy failures account for many perverse incentives in the efficient use of natural resources, and without strong institutions and governance frameworks in place, taking action to reduce environmental risks has a low chance of success.

Between 2004 and 2013, the World Bank (IBRD/IDA) committed loans for $31.8 billion, from which IDA’s contribution was $7.7 billion, to support investment in environment and natural resource management. By far, climate change has been the fastest growing environment and natural resource management area the Bank is supporting in client countries.

A sizable portion (15 percent) of the Bank’s environment and natural resource management commitment went to environmental policy and institutions for improving governance and strengthening environmental policy and natural resource management. Other than climate change, the World Bank’s environment and natural resource management loans were directed in large part to water resources management (25 percent) and pollution management and environmental health (21 percent).


Last Updated: Mar 25,2014

The World Bank Group’s Environment Strategy for FY 2012–2022 articulates a vision for a “Green, Clean and Resilient World for All” and prioritizes scaled-up action in a number of key areas. The green agenda focuses on nurturing more inclusive growth, while protecting biodiversity and ecosystems by:

  • enhancing countries’ decision making through the Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services global partnership that supports valuing countries’ natural capital assets and incorporating them into their systems of national accounts;
  • finding ways to restore the world’s oceans to health and economic productivity through working with a broad coalition of governments, international agencies, nongovernmental organizations and private companies through the Global Partnership for Oceans; and, 
  • testing the market’s willingness to encourage protection of critical habitat areas while also providing carbon storage benefits through continuing innovative work on forests and land use linked to the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation program.

Under the clean agenda, the focus is on continued support to countries to find low pollution and low-emission development paths through:

  • South-South exchange on best practice for managing pollution; 
  • scaling up use of cleaner stoves to help reduce indoor air pollution; 
  • supporting countries on river cleanup and legacy pollution issues; and, 
  • improving energy efficiency, encouraging a shift to renewable energies, finding climate- smart agricultural solutions, and building cleaner, lower-carbon cities.

The resilience agenda aims to reduce vulnerability to climate risks through:

  • supporting countries to find climate change adaptation solutions, such as better coastal zone management;
  • minimizing the damage of natural disasters in terms of loss of life and structural damage;
  • improving the resilience of small island and developing states.

The Bank also:

Invests in biodiversity to reduce poverty

Continued investment in nature is critical to end extreme poverty and accelerating inclusive growth for shared prosperity.  Over the last ten years, we have funded almost 300 forest-related projects in 75 countries—a quarter of which have supported the establishment or expansion of forest protected areas. The Bank is also a major provider of development assistance for combating environment and natural resources crime. For example, we have financed the establishment of a forest police agency in Lao PDR; a series of projects across South Asia on wildlife law enforcement; and fisheries law enforcement projects in West Africa.

Strengthens environmental policies and institutions

The World Bank’s average annual development policy lending for environmental issues increased from US$438 million in FY04–08 to US$1.48 billion in FY09–13. In Peru for example, a four-year environmental support program (2009–2013) resulted in the creation of the Ministry of Environment, the establishment of an agency for national parks and its sustainable financial strategy, air quality monitoring networks, and public disclosure of air quality information.

Assists countries to manage pollution

World Bank pollution management priorities focus on air pollution, river basin clean-up and addressing legacy pollution. Our projects have included: managing hospital waste in Vietnam; coastal zone and river basin management projects in India, Vietnam, and Pakistan; addressing indoor air pollution in Madagascar, Bangladesh and Uganda; addressing industrial pollution in India; and, reducing particulate matter concentrations in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia—a city with one of the highest concentration levels of particulate matter in the world.

Last Updated: Mar 25,2013
  • In FY13, the World Bank approved 124 environment-related operations and programs worth $2.47 billion with the major proportion coming from the East Asia and Pacific region.
  • As a partner to the 150-member Global Partnership for Oceans, the World Bank is actively facilitating its development, including by coordinating its existing oceans portfolio of over US$1.4 billion along with partners’ investments for priority ocean areas.
  • We are supporting Guinea Bissau to establish two major new protected areas, helping address sources of air pollution in Bangladesh and supporting Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras with a common policy framework to improve management of the region’s coral reefs.
  • The Bank worked with its partners to support the Government of Brazil to create 18 million hectares of new protected areas in the Amazon while supporting the communities living in them to sustainably use their natural capital to boost their own growth and prosperity.

Last Updated: Mar 25,2014

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 Global Partnership for Oceans (GPO) is a coalition of more than 150 governments, companies, and multi-lateral and civil society organizations committed to working together on country-led investment packages for healthier oceans. The GPO aims to tackle widely documented problems contributing to the depletion of crucial ocean resources that are hampering poverty alleviation and leading to food insecurity. It will work toward meeting interrelated objectives of sustainable seafood and aquaculture, protecting critical habitat and biodiversity, and reducing pollution to promote a healthy ocean and poverty reduction.

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.

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.

Last Updated: Mar 25,2014

Around The Bank Group

Find out what the Bank Group's branches are doing on environment.