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. For instance, a third of the world’s 100 largest cities draw their water supply from protected areas and 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. Sixty 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 billion–$100 billion are lost each year due to ocean fisheries mismanagement. There were about nine 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: Sep 15,2015

The World Bank Group 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, we view 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.

Our 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. It helps set developing countries on a clean, green growth trajectory for resilient economies and healthy communities.

The organization 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.  The Environment and Natural Resources Global Practice oversees a portfolio of about 165 projects worth about $5.3 billion.

Safeguard policies underpin the World Bank’s efforts to end extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity in a sustainable manner.

Over the last decade, the World 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 convince governments and citizens that investing in the environment is an investment in development,  and to mobilize appropriate financing. The World Bank therefore is an active member and supporter of knowledge, financing and awareness-raising partnerships.

Last Updated: Sep 15,2015

  • The Clean Air and Sustainable Environment project (CASE) is helping tackle pollution from brickfields and transportation in Bangladesh. So far, the project has encouraged the adoption of cleaner brick manufacturing technologies and is promoting safe pedestrian mobility by improving 70 kms of sidewalk with surface drainage facilities and building 23 foot bridges.
  • Through the Global Environment Facility’s Sustainable Transport and Air Quality Project, Latin American countries have been able to tackle pollution by bolstering their public transportation options and encouraging its citizens to use trains, buses or bicycles instead of cars.  In Buenos Aires, some 180,000 people now use bikes as their main or complementary mode of travel.
  • 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: As part of the program, Sierra Leone and Liberia have created conservation zones along the coast dedicated to small-scale fishing communities. Some of these communities have experienced up to a 40 percent increase in fish catch.
  • The $1.1 billion Bank-funded program that supports Africa’s Great Green Wall Initiative has had a positive impact on local communities and farmers. In Ethiopia, for example, a government program supported by the World Bank has boosted the livelihoods of 30 million people and helped put 15 million hectares of communal and individual land to more productive use.
  • In Brazil, the Bank worked with partners to support the creation, expansion and strengthening of around 60 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 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.

Last Updated: Sep 15,2015

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 $175 million to more than 1,900 civil society organizations across 22 global biodiversity hotspots. 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.

Launched in 2015, the Global Partnership on Wildlife Conservation and Crime Prevention for Sustainable Development is a US$90 million grant program by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). As lead agency, the Bank coordinates the partnership of the Asian Development Bank, International Union for Conservation of Nature, United Nations Development Program, United Nations Environment Program, the World Bank and World Wildlife Fund. The partnership will focus on designing and implementing national strategies to help countries secure their wildlife resources, habitats and the benefits they derive from them and reduce poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking. It will support international efforts to stop the environmental and social crises generated by the poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking between Africa and Asia.

Last Updated: Sep 15,2015