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New World Bank Environment Strategy Makes Green Essential to Growth

June 5, 2012

World Bank Group

In late 2009, the World Bank Group started the process of renewing its environment strategy. Key among the set of questions posed to countries, civil society groups, private companies and others was: “How can the World Bank Group help developing countries grow and fight poverty while ensuring environmental sustainability?” By July 2010, teams had consulted with more than 2,300 people from 126 countries.

The message that came back was loud and clear. The current economic model, driven by unsustainable growth and consumption patterns, was putting too much pressure on an already stretched environment. Despite economic growth that had helped lift many out of poverty, countries were faced with the multiple challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss, and adverse impacts on health from air and water pollution. Countries called on the World Bank Group to help set the tone for a `new development paradigm’, sending signals to the public and private sectors to follow.

The World Bank Group’s new Environment Strategy 2012-2022 attempts to respond to these calls. It lays out a vision for a “Green, Clean, and Resilient World for All,” and provides a roadmap for its frontline staff working with countries facing environmental challenges.

“We’re seeing that working through the nexus of food crises, water insecurity, and energy needs is being made all the more complicated by environmental degradation and climate change,” said World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development Rachel Kyte. “Countries and communities and the ecosystems they depend on need to build resilience while moving to more efficient growth paths. This strategy lays out the areas where we will put emphasis as we work to respond to countries’ needs.”

This is the first time that an environment strategy has been developed jointly by the World Bank and its private sector arms, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), bringing a greater focus on private sector involvement in environmental management.

Putting this vision into action requires work around three pillars. "Green" focuses on nurturing greener, more-inclusive growth while protecting biodiversity. "Clean" focuses on managing pollution and finding low-emission paths to development. Through a focus on "resilience" it also aims to reduce countries’ vulnerability to shocks, especially climate risks.

" We’re seeing that working through the nexus of food crises, water insecurity, and energy needs is being made all the more complicated by environmental degradation and climate change. This strategy lays out the areas where we will put emphasis as we work to respond to countries’ needs. "

Rachel Kyte

Vice President for Sustainable Development, World Bank

Among the priorities emerging from the strategy is broadening the uptake of natural capital accounting around the world. This requires changing the thinking about what makes up a nation’s wealth so that natural capital is accounted for and protected.

Another emerging agenda is around oceans through a new global partnership. Other areas include low-emissions development strategies, climate adaptation, disaster risk management, and resilience of small island developing states.

The strategy includes action plans for the specific environmental challenges in each developing region of the world. For example:

In Africa, work will focus on strengthening governance for natural resource management given growing pressure on the region’s agriculture, mining, forests, and water basins. In partnership with other agencies, the private sector, and civil society, the Bank Group is seeking to expand access to clean energy across the region.

In East Asia and the Pacific, the Bank Group is supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency, sustainable urban development and transport, as well as prioritizing the phase-out of numerous industrial pollutants; advising on carbon markets and adaptation in agriculture and coastal infrastructure; scaling up forest management; and strengthening regional partnerships to preserve biodiversity.

In Europe and Central Asia, where many countries are faced with energy shortages and a legacy of industrial pollution, the Bank Group is promoting clean energy and production while supporting programs to dispose of pollutant stockpiles, rehabilitate watersheds and improve disaster preparedness.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, where pressure continues on coastlines, wetlands, and the world’s largest forest cover, the Bank Group is supporting the management of protected areas, the integration of biodiversity conservation into productive landscapes and in some countries, the use of payments for environmental services. It is also providing the world’s most urbanized region with policy advice on cleaner development paths, supporting industrial pollution abatement, and promoting “green cities”.

In Middle East and North Africa, where high population density, water scarcity, and overfishing tend primarily to affect the poor, the Bank Group is supporting programs to strengthen the capacity of countries with shared seas—the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Gulf—to reduce marine pollution and manage fisheries. Other focus areas include desert ecosystems and livelihoods; improved urban and industrial planning; scaled-up solar power generation; and efforts to reduce vulnerability to drought.

In South Asia, where the poorest live in areas of high soil erosion, variable rainfall, and degraded forests, the Bank Group is helping to strengthen the role of natural resource management in the development agenda, strengthen environmental management in industry and reduce the costs to countries of environmental degradation.

The strategy comes out just ahead of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, known as Rio +20, where world leaders will seek to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development. The conference will assess progress made over the last 20 years and seek agreement on ways to address emerging challenges.

The new environment strategy provides a platform for the World Bank Group's support to countries to achieve inclusive green growth—one of the key focus areas of the Rio+20 conference.