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FEATURE STORY June 9, 2020

Climate Finance Helps People Adapt to Change

A shrimp pond in Vietnam

A shrimp pond in Vietnam

Photo: Flore de Préneuf / World Bank


  • With tailored solutions, World Bank Group is helping countries confront the economic and environmental impacts of climate change.
  • A growing number of countries have established social safety nets to protect the vulnerable, while climate-smart agriculture projects address the interlinked challenges of food security and climate change.
  • Investing in job creation and livelihoods, both in the short term and the longer term, will be a priority for a sustainable recovery from the pandemic.

Farmers in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta have been hit by droughts, storms, and flooding. Rising seas and increased storms are contributing to increasing salinity of water, with implications for the Delta’s renowned rice crop, and coastal erosion.

“There is growing awareness of the need to invest in adaptation,” says Binh Thang Cao, who co-leads the World Bank’s Mekong Delta Climate Resilience and Livelihoods Project.

The Mekong Delta project’s goal is to support climate-smart land- and water-management practices. On the ground, this means helping farmers transition to climate-resilient agricultural and aquacultural practices, investing in irrigation infrastructure for improving water resource management, rehabilitating dikes and planting mangroves, as well as closely monitoring changes in the Delta, including river and groundwater availability, erosion, and saltwater intrusion.

Complementing all of this, the project is also supporting the preparation of the evidence-based Mekong Delta master plan to further scale up climate-smart practices across the Delta over the next 10 years.

“When it comes to climate impacts, we have a fairly good idea of what will happen in the short term,” says Diji Chandrasekharan Behr, who leads the project.

“The uncertainty comes when you look at the climate models over the medium and long term. This uncertainty is why it's so important to make investments that will be beneficial under any climate scenario – what we call low-regret or no-regret options for adapting to climate change."

“In the Mekong Delta, this essentially means investing in living with the ‘new-normal’ created by climate change.”

Confronting COVID and Climate

These solutions include bolstering food security, social protection, and livelihoods – all of which have become increasingly critical concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The World Bank Group warns that the pandemic threatens to push an additional 60 million people into poverty and has fast-tracked emergency assistance to 100 countries. As much as $160 billion could be provided to developing countries into 2021.

 “COVID-19 is teaching us the importance of understanding who is vulnerable and why, and reiterating the need for equal access to services and basic rights, risk-informed decision-making in the face of uncertainty, and precautionary action,” said Arame Tall, Senior Adaptation and Resilience Specialist at the World Bank and an author of the Action Plan on Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience.

“These are also the cornerstones of preparedness for the climate crisis. If we rise to the challenge and fully embrace these lessons, we can reduce the multiple impacts of this crisis and lay the foundations for facing, full-on, the next one.”


Addressing Interlinked Challenges

The Climate Change Action Plan 2016-2020 raised the level of financing for climate from 21% to a target of 28% of the overall budget, with some sectors projected to be higher.

With the help of the World Bank and other partners, a growing number of countries have established social safety nets to protect the most vulnerable. Some—including Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Kenya, Madagascar, Niger, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines – have safety nets that respond to climate-related impacts such as food insecurity, droughts, and cyclones.

Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Nets Program expanded during the 2016 El Niño-influenced drought to temporarily cover 18.5 million people – 20 percent of the population – to avoid a famine and protect them from falling into poverty. The program also provides regular cash or food to people in exchange for land restoration work, irrigation, and agroforestry, thereby also boosting eco-systems and agriculture.

Climate-smart agriculture projects address the interlinked challenges of food security and climate change. The Maharashtra Project on Climate Resilient Agriculture in India is the largest such project supported by the Bank, helping 7 million people in a region that has been hit by drought, and recently by locusts. 

The project covers 2.5 million hectares of land highly vulnerable to climate variability and populated by small rainfed farms. A major goal is to spur adoption of climate resilient agriculture practices to boost productivity and food security, and to help farmers reduce the impact of climate disturbances on their farming systems while strengthening their capacity to recover from climatic events.  

To that end, the project provides free training for farmers on a wide range of topics including soil fertility and water resources management; varietal crop selection and issues of seed quality; adoption of low-cost organic practices; and diversification of farming systems for enhancing profitability. To encourage efficient use of scarce water resources, a water balance sheet is on public display for the community to make informed choices.


Supporting Livelihoods

In Ethiopia, the Livestock and Fisheries Sector Development Project integrates climate change considerations into good agricultural practices, while supporting 1.2 million farm households in four key industries -- dairy, poultry, small livestock, and fisheries -- to become more productive, food secure, and better connected to markets. The project introduced climate-smart livestock interventions to boost animal husbandry, health, and breeding, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The project has also supported government programs to develop sustainable fisheries and included climate-smart infrastructure for basic animal housing and storage facilities that incorporated renewable energy generation.

Along Morocco's coast, where pollution, overcrowding, and climate change are endangering traditional livelihoods such as fishing, the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project built capacity in local government to better manage fragile ecosystems and fisheries. It also helped people find new sources of income in such industries as aquaculture, apiculture, and eco-tourism. The pilot project, funded by a $5.18 million grant from the Global Environment Facility, restored two degraded wetlands and dune ecosystems, created 42 new permanent jobs and 267 temporary jobs, and has the potential to be scaled up to more areas and countries along the Mediterranean coast.

Investing in job creation and livelihoods, both in the short term and the longer term, will be a priority for a sustainable recovery from the pandemic says World Bank Lead Climate Change Economist Stéphane Hallegatte, who has co-written a series of blog posts on the topic.

A wide range of investments can boost shorter-term job creation and incomes and generate long-term sustainability and growth benefits,” says Hallegatte. "For those of us who focus on the threat that climate change presents to hard-won development gains around the world, this crisis has a sense of foreboding to it. But if we are strategic in how we design policy responses, we can achieve both short and long-term outcomes that benefit both national and global interests.