Environment

This page in:
  • English

Toward a Clean, Green, Resilient World for All

The World Bank Group's Environment Strategy 2012-2022 lays out an ambitious agenda to support "green, clean, resilient" paths for developing countries, as they pursue poverty reduction and development in an increasingly fragile environment.

The Environment Strategy, which covers the World Bank, International Finance Corporation (IFC), and Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), recognizes that while there has been notable progress in reducing global poverty, there has been significantly less progress in managing the environment sustainably. While developing countries will still need rapid growth to reduce poverty over the next decade, the global environment has reached a critical state that could undermine livelihoods, productivity, and global stability.

Green

"Green" refers to a world in which natural resources, including oceans, land, and forests, are sustainably managed and conserved to improve livelihoods and ensure food security. It's a world in which healthy ecosystems increase all the economic returns from the activities they support. Growth strategies are focused on overall wealth rather than GDP as it is currently measured. Governments pursue regulations that encourage innovation, efficiency, sustainable budgeting, and green growth. Biodiversity is protected as an economically critical resource. In this world, good policies enable the private sector to use natural resources sustainably as part of good business, creating jobs and contributing to long-term growth. 

Biodiversity continues to decline as a result of habitat destruction and degradation. Over the past 40 years, there have been significant declines in healthy ecosystems-e.g., forests, mangroves, sea grass beds, coral reefs-and their flora and fauna populations, with species loss affecting everything from fungi to insects, plants, frogs, tigers, and gorillas. Forests have seen annual losses of 5.2 million hectares between 2000 and 2010, despite declines in deforestation rates and increased forest plantations. As a result, the capacity of ecosystems to provide services such as water provisioning and flood control has declined significantly. Land degradation is also worsening as a result of deforestation and poor agricultural practices, with soil erosion, salinization, and nutrient depletion contributing to desertification. Freshwater supplies are seriously stressed, with 1.4 billion people living in river basins in which water use exceeds recharge rates. Oceans and shared seas are also under stress from climate change, overharvesting, pollution, and coastal development. The decline of marine resources threatens the livelihoods of over 100 million men and women involved in fish processing.

Through the global Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES) partnership, partnership, the Bank Group is supporting efforts to measure the value of countries’ natural assets and thereby inform policy choices. The Bank Group is also supporting the Global Partnership for Oceans to help restore the world's oceans to health and optimize their contributions to economic growth and food security. In addition, the World Bank Group will build on its experience in carbon finance to test the market's willingness to encourage the protection of critical habitat areas while also providing carbon storage benefits; continue innovative work on forests and land use linked to the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) program; and develop methodologies to capture and monetize carbon co-benefits—for example, through wildlife conservation programs. 

Clean

"Clean" refers to a low-pollution, low-emission world in which cleaner air, water, and oceans enable people to lead healthy, productive lives. It is a world where development strategies put a premium on access-so that rural women no longer spend their days hauling wood-alongside options for low-emission, climate-smart agriculture, transport, energy, and urban development. Cleaner production standards spur innovation, and industry is encouraged to develop clean technologies that provide jobs and support sustainable growth. Companies and governments are held to account on their low-emission, low-pollution commitments, and innovative financing helps to spur change. 

The poorest countries suffer directly and measurably from an increasingly polluted and degraded environment, with women and children disproportionately affected. Air and water pollution are rising sharply in cities in lower- and middle-income countries, and developing countries' water resources are under threat from drawdown and pollution-human waste, phosphorus, and nitrogen that deplete waterways of oxygen and causing the death of fish and invertebrates. The increased use of fertilizers for food crops over the next 30 years is expected to result in a 10- to 20-percent global increase in river nitrogen flows to coastal ecosystems (UNEP 2007). In some regions, levels of heavy metals, stockpiles of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), and other chemical wastes from industry, which affect human and animal health, water supplies, and land, are increasing. Meanwhile, carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise, reaching a record high in 2010 and making it more challenging to limit the rise in global temperatures to 2 degrees by 2100.

Recognizing that countries cannot "grow dirty and clean up later," the Bank Group is encouraging low-emission development strategies and innovative financing for renewable energies, climate-smart agriculture, and lower-carbon cities. It is also supporting pollution management through river clean-up and legacy pollution projects, using carbon finance funds to scale up use of cleaner stoves to reduce indoor pollution for women and children, and developing partnerships with the private sector to spur cleaner production standards and strategies.

Resilient

"Resilient" means being prepared for shocks and adapting effectively to climate change. In a resilient world, countries are better prepared for more frequent natural disasters, more volatile weather patterns, and the long-term consequences of climate change. Healthy and well-managed ecosystems are more resilient and so play a key role in reducing vulnerability to climate change impacts. Climate resilience is integrated into urban planning and infrastructure development. Through effective social inclusion policies, countries and communities are better prepared to protect vulnerable groups and fully involve women in decision-making. 

Climate change will increase the vulnerability of human and natural systems. The economic costs of climate change and variability will be large, making it even more challenging to address issues of poverty and environmental degradation. Natural hazards-earthquakes, droughts, floods, and storms-continue to cause significant loss of life and economic damage, with women and children the most affected by disasters. Cities and Small Island Developing States are also particularly vulnerable. 

The Bank Group is helping countries adapt to climate change through better coastal zone management and climate-smart agriculture; improving disaster risk management by expanding the use of climate risk insurance and other financial instruments to help with recovery after natural disasters; and assisting vulnerable Small Island Developing States to reduce dependence on oil imports, build sound infrastructure, and restore protective coastal ecosystems such as mangroves.


Open Quotes

The Environment Strategy recognizes that while there has been notable progress in reducing global poverty, there has been significantly less progress in managing the environment sustainably. Close Quotes


Executive Summary
EnglishArabicChineseFrenchPortugueseRussianSpanishVietnamese

Chapter 1: A New Environment Strategy, a New Vision
Chapter 2: An Environment Under Assault
Chapter 3: Coming Together to Transform Challenges Into Opportunities
Chapter 4: Lessons Learned and Voices Heard
Chapter 5: From Vision to Action
Chapter 6: Environmental Actions and Commitments From World Bank Group Regions
Chapter 7: From Actions to Results
Annex 1: Actions by World Bank Group Sectors Addressing Environmental Sustainability

Analytical Papers

Assessing the Environmental Co-Benefits of Climate Change Actions
The Role of Biodiversity and Ecosystems

Strengthening Environmental Institutions and Governance
Managing Pollution for Poverty Reduction and Green Development
Valuing Ecosystem Services

Financing Environmental Services in Developing Countries 
Lessons from Environmental Mainstreaming
Monitoring Envrionmental Sustainabililty

Gender and Environment
Furthering World Bank's Corporate Environmental Sustainability

Use of Country Systems for Environmental Safegurds


Open Quotes

While developing countries will still need rapid growth to reduce poverty over the next decade, the global environment has reached a critical state that could undermine livelihoods, productivity, and global stability. Close Quotes

Regions

Europe & Central Asia

Relative to GDP, carbon emissions in ECA are among the highest in the world. So the Region faces dual challenges of managing its energy security while maximizing options for cleaner energy. Pollution management and shifting attention to new models for managing industrial pollution continue to be a major challenge in ECA that will require addressing current and future pollution flows and associated risks, as well as legacy pollution and brownfield regeneration. The region also faces the challenge of maximizing wealth creation from natural resources and the sustainability of natural resource-based economic activities, such as forests, which are a major source of employment, timber, and ecological services. While upgrading infrastructure, improving water resource management, and improving water utilities and energy systems are needed independently of climate change, they would also help to make the region more resilient.

The ECA Region is engaged in a large and multifaceted program of energy supply augmentation and modernization, with a significant focus on clean energy options. In a number of countries, new “green economy” studies are being undertaken to assess the implications of implementing EU policies on cleaner production and consumption as well as climate change. The World Bank is also supporting efforts to address legacy pollution, and sustainable forest management, with an emphasis on governance, the role of communities and the private sector, and conservation and environmental services, including carbon sequestration. To improve resilience, the Region has launched programs for the modernization of hydro-meteorological services to target enhanced emergency preparedness and planning and better institutional coordination in flood-prone river basins. Improved pasture management is also helping build climate resilience in Central Asia.

Highlights:

  • A principal focus of the region is sustainable forest management, with an emphasis on governance, the role of communities and the private sector. 
  • In a number of countries, new 'green economy' studies are being undertaken to assess the implications of implementing EU policies on cleaner production and consumption. 
  • The region has launched programs for the modernization of hydro-meteorological services in Russia, Moldova, and the countries of Central Asia.

Latin America & the Caribbean

The unique and rich biodiversity resources of the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) Region continue to be under threat from settlements, inappropriate agriculture, logging, and mining, as well as from inadequate protected areas management. The region continues to be plagued by persistent environmental health risks from urban air pollution, indoor air pollution, and inadequate access to improved water sources and sanitation, all of which result in higher health costs. Rising industrial pollution combined with weak monitoring and enforcement further compounds the contamination of air, water, and soil from emissions and effluent discharges. Several countries have weak environmental institutions and poor environmental governance. In many countries in LAC and in the Region as a whole, GHG emissions from the transportation and energy sectors are expected to rise in tandem with rising motorization rates.

LAC is strengthening its green agenda by undertaking analytical work to underpin the economic value of functioning ecosystems, investing in biodiversity protection, and mobilizing innovative sources of financing, including through the linkage between biodiversity and climate change. Through participation in the WAVES partnership, this work includes shifting toward greater recognition of the economic value of ecosystems and biodiversity services and of the high economic costs of their loss. It also supports the management of protected areas (Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States), the integration of biodiversity conservation into productive landscapes (Uruguay, Mexico, Brazil, and Panama), and the use of payments for environmental services (Costa Rica, Mexico, and Brazil). Work will also be stepped up to meet the growing interest in forest carbon partnerships (REDD+, for example in Mexico and Costa Rica) and forest investment programs (Mexico, Peru, and Brazil) to build institutional capacity, forest governance, and information, as well as investments in forest mitigation efforts. LAC is the most urbanized region in the world, so support for countries to move toward a cleaner development path is a high priority for the region. Supporting countries like Argentina and Uruguay to strengthen their industrial pollution abatement and cleaner production processes is another key priority, while for Brazil, encouraging “green cities” by incorporating environmental considerations into urban planning and design is a key focus. LAC is increasingly addressing the need for enhanced climate resilience by boosting work in adaptation, mitigation, and disaster risk management.

Highlights:

  • The region is strengthening its green agenda by undertaking analytical work to underpin the economic value of functioning ecosystems, investing in biodiversity protection, and mobilizing innovative sources of financing. 
  • Support for countries to move toward a cleaner development path is a high priority. 
  • The region is increasingly addressing the need for enhanced climate resilience by boosting work in adaptation, mitigation, and disaster risk management. 

South Asia

The Environment Sustainability Index shows that the environmental performance of countries in the South Asia Region (SAR) lags behind other countries at similar per capita income levels. The poorest areas of the Region overlap with the most environmentally stressed regions, with high levels of soil erosion, highly variable rainfall, and degraded forests. Environmental health impacts are exerting a heavy toll on economies in SAR. According to World Bank estimates, environmental degradation costs between 5 and 10 percent of GDP in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan. The largest share of these costs is associated with environmental health impacts, accounting for about 20 percent of the total burden of disease in the Region, comparable to malnutrition. Moreover, the SAR region is expected to face increased vulnerability to extreme climatic events, including more-intense weather, floods, and drought. Climate change is also expected to reduce agricultural productivity, potentially increasing malnutrition, decreasing water availability in many areas, and affecting people’s livelihoods negatively. Sea-level rise is another critical threat, particularly for coastal India, the Maldives, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. 

The SAR Region is supporting the promotion of environmental mainstreaming in key natural resource sectors and regional approaches to biodiversity conservation. Its approach to the clean agenda in the region includes promoting structural transformations for reducing the costs of environmental degradation on human health and reducing pollution from key sources. Its approach to the resilience agenda includes increasing the resilience of ecosystems, infrastructure and highly vulnerable areas.

Highlights:

  • The region is supporting the promotion of environmental mainstreaming in key natural resource sectors and regional approaches to biodiversity conservation. 
  • The approach to the clean agenda in the region includes promoting structural transformations for reducing the costs of environmental degradation on human health and reducing pollution from key sources. 
  • The region’s approach to the resilience agenda includes increasing the resilience of ecosystems, infrastructure and highly vulnerable areas.

Africa

The challenge for Africa in managing its forests is to cope with the poor governance issues plaguing the forestry sector and the fragmentation of external funding. Africa is still home to less-developed coastlines that still harbor intact ecosystems that protect coastal cities and infrastructure from flooding and provide protection for fisheries, but its seascapes are increasingly threatened by human pressure, and destruction of coastal mangrove forests has increased the vulnerability of coastal settlements. The region is also burdened with the pollution impacts of a long history of mining, and faces challenges in managing waste in its fast-growing cities. Finally, Africa needs to address land and soil degradation affecting at least 425 million people, as well as water scarcity or stress.

The key to realizing the sustainable development potential of Africa’s forests and woodlands is improved governance at all levels. Besides working through REDD and similar mechanisms to monitor progress, the World Bank will address natural resources governance through development policy lending, technical assistance, and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, and support sustainable land and water management production benefits that have significant biodiversity benefits. The World Bank will undertake new analytical work on hazardous waste and persistent organic pollutants, and work to enhance the enabling environment for responsible private sector investment. Urban environmental sanitation upgrading will be piloted. To improve resilience, the World Bank will support sustainable land management strategies through the TerrAfrica partnership, demonstrate integration of climate risk and resilience into development planning and implementation through the Climate Investment Funds and the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience, and provide continued assistance for river basin programs. Coastal zone management and flood mitigation will become an area of increased investment.

Highlights:

  • To stem the tide of biodiversity loss, the focus will be on various types of sustainable land and water management production systems that have significant biodiversity benefits. 
  • The World Bank will continue to provide assistance to river basin programs; new areas of intervention include country-specific water assistance strategies.
  • Through technical assistance, the region aims to ensure that transparent environmental regulatory frameworks and competent institutions for monitoring environmental compliance are available. 

East Asia & The Pacific

Rapid economic growth, urbanization, and industrialization combined with an unsustainable use of the natural resource base are leading to degradation of air, water, land, and their related environmental services in the East Asia and the Pacific (EAP) Region. This is threatening sustainable economic development and affecting people’s health and livelihoods. Policy, institutional, and related governance elements have not evolved rapidly enough to cope with rapid changes, nor has the implementation and enforcement capacity of existing systems developed fast enough. Global and regional environmental externalities have rapidly intensified, resulting in a major environmental footprint of the Region. 

As part of the overall strategy to address these challenges, the World Bank’s EAP Region will provide analytical support and technical assistance, and facilitate knowledge creation, including South-South collaboration; further develop the regional lending portfolio of environmental and natural resources management operations; expand and deepen the mainstreaming of environmental management in the regional sector lending program; facilitate financing through a combination of global environmental programs, lending products, and other leveraged sources of environmental finance, including the Global Environment Facility (GEF); and further develop the regional climate change portfolio with attention to synergies between emissions reduction, climate adaptation, and disaster risk management. 

Highlights:

  • The region will have a stronger forestry and sustainable forest management portfolio, reflected in increased climate and biodiversity focus. 
  • The region will expand its greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction projects, with increased emphasis on sustainable urban development and sustainable transportation. 
  • Ecosystem-based adaptation will be promoted in several countries through analytical work and pilot projects. 

Middle East & North Africa

The long-term green challenge for MENA is to sustainably maximize wealth creation from fragile natural resources. Water scarcity is aggravated by increased degradation of water quality, which primarily affects the region’s poor. High population densities and economic and population growth have accentuated the pressures on natural resources and environmentally sensitive ecosystems, putting further stress on water and land. Air, land, and marine-based pollution threaten the region's cities, waterways, and shared seas. Managing vulnerability to climate change impacts such as drought is a key challenge.

The region’s shared seas programs support environmental management capacity building of the riparian countries to address pollution reduction, improved water and marine resources management, renewable energy, and sustainable fisheries. The MENA-Desert Ecosystems and Livelihoods Program is a 10- to 15-year program that aims to enhance livelihoods from desert ecosystems by harnessing their value in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner. Continued commercialization of low-carbon, renewable energy options is another important goal for the region. Concentrated solar power is closest to economically viable energy storage. It is therefore in a strong position to become a long-term renewable energy option, without the need for fossil fuel backup. The World Bank is working with the African Development Bank and other partners to accelerate its expansion in the Region. Smarter urban design and development is also a priority. Building codes that drive greater water and energy efficiencies, smart approaches to urban transport to reduce congestion, and integrated solid waste management that also reduces leaching and resulting groundwater contamination are important areas of focus. The World Bank Group is supporting efforts to map groundwater resources and increase the use of treated wastewater, and to analyze the economic costs and environmental implications of desalination.

Highlights:

  • The Desert Ecosystems and Livelihoods Program aims to enhance livelihoods from desert ecosystems by harnessing their value in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner. 
  • Continued commercialization of low-carbon, renewable energy options is an important goal for the region. 
  • Efforts to map groundwater resources and increase the use of treated wastewater, and to analyze the economic costs and environmental implications of desalination, are under way. 

The World Bank Group environment strategy seeks a development path that supports growth while focusing more on sustainability and ensuring that the environment is a key enabler for green, more-inclusive growth.