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" 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" 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" 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.