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Speeches & TranscriptsFebruary 17, 2024

Remarks by Axel van Trotsenburg at the Crafting Equitable and Peaceful Transitions in the Global South Side Event of the Munich Security Conference 2024

The question of the day is one of the most critical for development: What can we do to support countries in decarbonizing while strengthening social cohesion?

When answering, we must keep in mind that perspectives on this question differ significantly between Global North and Global South.

While countries in the Global North are responsible for the majority of emissions, they are concerned about growing emissions in the Global South and want these countries to pull their weight on decarbonization. Countries in the Global South are concerned about their development; they want to decarbonize, but not at the expense of poverty reduction or growth.

If we want to speed up decarbonization, we must bring both sides together and support decarbonization policies that provide dual dividends on climate and smart development. We need to make sure that decarbonization policies are not creating haves and have nots, and they are equitable and inclusive. This is at the core of our work at the Bank, and we already see this approach in multiple sectors.

For example, in the coal sector, we are the first IFI that introduced a 'Just Transition for All' initiative to comprehensively address social inequalities while ensuring a stable transition away from coal. We know this might be hard, will require time and coordination but must be done for a peaceful, just and equitable transition to a zero-carbon economy.

Given limited global financing, we also need to think about ways to encourage decarbonization in conflict contexts.  Here, we aim to generate triple wins: climate, development and peacebuilding – three deeply intersected challenges, given that two-thirds of people living in extreme poverty expected to be living in conflict or fragile countries by 2030. This demographic shift highlights the critical intersection between poverty, instability, and the urgent need for sustainable development.

Within this context, we should recognize that vulnerable populations are disproportionately affected by both conflict and environmental degradation, therefore, forward-thinking policies should prioritize initiatives that not only reduce carbon emissions but also address the root causes of fragility and conflict.

By integrating peacebuilding and development goals into decarbonization strategies, we can work together towards creating a more resilient and equitable future for the world's most vulnerable populations.

We all know that climate change, with its escalating impacts on weather patterns, resource availability, and ecosystems, has the potential to exacerbate existing social tensions and ignite new conflicts. The competition for dwindling resources, such as water and arable land, can intensify geopolitical rivalries and trigger migration flows, straining social fabrics.

Therefore, decarbonization policies present a crucial tool not only for mitigating environmental degradation but also for addressing the root causes of conflict. Just and equitable decarbonization measures, focusing on inclusivity and fairness, can help distribute the benefits and burdens of the transition more equitably.

One of the things we are doing at the World Bank is leveraging community and local development programs in over 11 countries (including Chad, Niger, and Mali) with over $1.5 billion in financing to support bottom-up climate investments while building trust between government and the state and improving transparency and accountability over climate investments.

Despite some success stories, we need countries to act faster. This is not yet happening, due to the political economy. But it is not insurmountable.

We carried out an analysis of climate policies around the world, that identified key steps to drive effective climate action.

  • First, countries that have people’s support to take quick action on climate change – benefit from putting in place institutions that specifically address climate change. In other contexts, mainstreaming climate goals into existing institutions also works.
  • Second, countries can sequence policies, balancing short term feasibility with long term ambition. This doesn’t necessarily mean that countries need to act slowly –but that countries can identify areas where technology, societal support, and accessibility provide opportunities for faster change.
  • Third, and finally, we need to work more closely with countries to promote inclusive policy design through robust stakeholder engagement and communication. Policies that reflect the needs and concerns of all segments of society, minimize the risk of exacerbating existing inequalities. Additionally, transparent communication and collaboration can help build trust among stakeholders, fostering a sense of shared responsibility for the success of decarbonization initiatives.

These are some of our thoughts. I look forward to hearing what all of you propose during the Q&A.


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