The IPCC report hits home: How our work in sustainable development is helping countries tackle the climate crisis

Author

Juergen Voegele

Source(s)
World Bank, the

Earlier this week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s Working Group II released Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, the second of the three reports of the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (AR6). Like its predecessors, this report reflects the latest scientific consensus on the science of climate change and the risks and impacts to human wellbeing and the health of the planet. It also provides much practical information that we can and will use.

For us, and others working on development issues, the report is a grim read. Climate change is affecting lives, livelihoods, health, food and water security, infrastructure, cities and built environments around the world. While impacts vary across regions and systems, the most vulnerable people and regions are disproportionately affected, in particular, in low- and middle-income countries, vulnerable small island states, and countries experiencing fragility, conflicts, and violence. Our own research has found that climate change and natural disasters may push as many as 132 million people into poverty by 2030, and cause 216 million people to migrate internally by 2050.

The report provides stronger evidence that climate change impacts are detectable over all continents, and that climate change is already affecting extreme events and natural disasters, making climate change adaptation and disaster risk management indistinguishable and urgently needed.

More worryingly, in some cases, people and ecosystems already face or are fast approaching “hard” limits to adaptation; that is, there are now some climate impacts that are already too severe to adapt to, including with coastal wetlands, rainforests, and polar and mountain ecosystems. So not only is climate change here, but we’re passing points of no return – in some cases for centuries – much more quickly than previously thought. And this intersects across our work in sustainable development. That’s why it’s important to take stock of some of these intersections and the implications of the latest report.

 

"So not only is climate change here, but we’re passing points of no return – in some cases for centuries – much more quickly than previously thought."

Take the vital need for adaptation and resilience. These are central priorities of the World Bank Group’s climate commitments. In our recent Climate Change Action Plan (2021-2025), the Bank committed to half of all climate finance supporting adaptation. We already provide two thirds of all multilateral adaptation finance to low- and middle-income countries. Looking ahead, adaptation and resilience building will also play a central role in our core diagnostics, analytics and investments, including in our new, upcoming Country Climate and Development Reports. At the macro-level, we are increasingly adopting a whole-of-economy approach to evaluate adaptation and resilience readiness and identify priority actions across sectors and levels of government and society. For instance, a recent analysis looked at how to build resilience in the Caribbean region, where intensifying natural hazards could impact health, agricultural yields and coastal landscapes. And at the project level, we have developed a resilience rating system to ensure current and future climate change and disaster risk are considered in project design and appraisal and that our projects also build broader system resilience. 

The IPCC report also makes clear just how tightly interconnected and interdependent climate, ecosystems and human society are. Much work is underway at the World Bank to support countries and communities to develop and finance integrated strategies to manage natural resources, preserve biodiversity and develop nature-based solutions for climate resilience planning. This is why nature-based solutions are a critical component of our Climate Change Action Plan. The Bank has financed biodiversity conservation around the world, including over 116 million hectares of Marine and Coastal Protected Areas, 10 million hectares of Terrestrial Protected Areas, and over 300 protected habitats, biological buffer zones and reserves. In Turkey, we support resilient landscapes integration that enhances livelihoods for forest communities through erosion control, forest rehabilitation and income generation. In Ethiopia, 900,000 hectares of land have been conserved, benefiting 2.5 million people through improved water access, food security, and land tenure.

 

"The Bank has financed biodiversity conservation around the world, including over 116 million hectares of Marine and Coastal Protected Areas, 10 million hectares of Terrestrial Protected Areas, and over 300 protected habitats, biological buffer zones and reserves."

The connection between climate extremes and agricultural production is also well known, with dire consequences for food and nutrition security. To prepare for the challenges ahead, we are helping countries rethink agriculture so that it is more sustainable, more nutritious and more resilient in the face of climate change, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This requires changing public policies, attracting responsible agribusiness and spreading innovative practices. In Africa, for example, we are working with CGIAR to bring climate-smart technologies to smallholder farmers.

Cities play a vital role in addressing climate change: almost half a billion urban residents live in coastal areas, increasing their vulnerability to storm surges and sea level rise. Moreover, around 90% of urban expansion in developing countries is near hazard-prone areas and built through informal and unplanned settlements with clear implications for resilience building in the face of mounting climate impacts. In Mozambique for instance, we supported the building of a stormwater drainage system in Beira to prevent the city from flooding and bolster its resilience to weather-related hazards. This project helped get the port of Beira back in operation after cyclones Idai and Kenneth. And we are working with local, national and regional partners to help cities to better understand and reduce their vulnerability to natural hazards and climate change.

"Cities play a vital role in addressing climate change: almost half a billion urban residents live in coastal areas, increasing their vulnerability to storm surges and sea level rise."

Even as countries try harder to adapt to the climate impacts that are already happening – and indeed, there are many other sectors where these intersections exist - they also need to reduce emissions. The Bank Group is today one of the largest providers of finance for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in low- and middle-income countries: over the last five years, we provided $9.4 billion in financing for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. It’s also why we committed to aligning our financing flows with the Paris Agreement.

It will always be easier to kick the can down the road, to delay making hard choices today, and to hope that someone in the future will act. But human-induced climate change is already causing dangerous, widespread, and increasingly irreversible disruptions. We are committed to bringing the full operational weight of the Bank Group, as well as our deep sectoral and analytical expertise, to helping our clients address this existential challenge. 

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