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, food security and poverty reduction. Natural resources provide livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people and generate sizeable tax revenue. The world's ecosystems regulate the air, water and soil on which we all depend, form a unique and cost-effective buffer against extreme weather events and climate change.

Healthy ecosystems are essential for the long-term growth of economic sectors such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism, and already provide hundreds of millions of jobs. A third of the world’s 100 largest cities draw their water supply from protected areas. 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, an estimated US$80 billion are squandered each year due to ocean fisheries mismanagement. Air pollution is now the fourth leading risk factor for premature death, contributing to 1 in 10 of all deaths worldwide and resulting in significant losses of welfare and income. 

Last Updated: Sep 22,2016

The World Bank Group's overarching goal is a world free of poverty. It aims to end extreme poverty by 2030 and boost shared prosperity for the bottom 40 percent of the population in each country in a sustainable manner. 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. Investment projects are further guided by safeguard policies, which address environmental and social risks, and were recently updated. 

The World 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. 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 170 projects worth about US$7.4 billion.

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. About 56% of commitments in FY16 support climate change goals, with much overlap between adaptation, mitigation, and poverty reduction benefits. 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 22,2016

  • In Morocco, the World Bank has lent support for government policies on green growth across sectors such as energy, agriculture, fishing and waste management. Better management of natural resources is helping generate more jobs, value and wellbeing from existing assets, and building resilience to climate change. The phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies, for example, has opened up opportunities for energy efficiency gains and made renewable energy more competitive. Improved governance in fisheries is helping protect the livelihoods of about half a million Moroccans.
  • 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. The next phase of the Amazon protection project aims to maintain 73,000,000 hectares of forest land, promote sustainable land management in 52,700 hectares, and support actions that will help reduce CO2 emissions by 300 million tons by 2030. 
  • 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 that decrease particulate emissions and greenhouse gas emissions, and is promoting safer pedestrian mobility by improving sidewalks and building 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.
  • The US$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 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 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 22,2016

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 Pollution Management and Environmental Health (PMEH) program, hosted by the World Bank with multi-donor support, helps developing countries reduce deadly pollution. 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. 

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 forest governance, forest land restoration and climate change. 

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

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 World Bank is the lead agency of the Global Partnership on Wildlife Conservation and Crime Prevention for Sustainable Development, a US$131 million grant program by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) active in 19 countries, launched in 2015. The program focuses on designing and implementing national strategies to help countries secure their wildlife resources, habitats and the benefits they derive from them while also reducing poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking.  

Last Updated: Sep 22,2016

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