FeaturedInternationalVOLUME 16 ISSUE # 05

Covid-19 compounds climate crisis

Recent surveys show that Covid-19 has increased the risks for countries faced with the challenge of climate change.

The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on global health, pushing more people in Asia and Africa into extreme poverty. In this respect, like other international agencies, the World Bank Group has provided emergency assistance to more than 100 developing countries, valued at $160 billion. The bank has charted out a detailed plan to tackle climate change posing a serious threat to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.

Following the historic Paris Agreement on climate change, the WB unveiled an ambitious Climate Change Action Plan to channel financial and technical support to developing countries to step up climate action. The World Bank Group committed to increasing climate finance from 20pc of lending in 2016 to 28pc. The target exceeded each year for the last three consecutive years. In total, over the duration of the Action Plan, the bank delivered over $83 billion in climate finance.

As a policy measure, the bank has made climate change needs a part of all its projects and strategies. As a result of the Action Plan, all new bank projects are screened for climate risks. Climate change considerations are taken into account at every stage of project design and have been integrated into 100pc of the bank’s multi-year development strategies with developing partners.

As a result, the bank’s support has branched out beyond sectors traditionally identified with climate action, such as energy, agriculture and environment, expanding the range of climate-smart development to projects that include enhancing digital development and climate resilience in countries, like Bangladesh and Egypt.

Secondly, the bank has made climate-smart land use a priority to boost food security and protect natural resources. An increasing share of agriculture projects is “climate-smart”: increasing productivity and resilience while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And solutions have been deployed at a large scale, bringing benefits to millions around the world.

According to the World Bank, the disruption caused by Covid-19 has underlined the importance of guarding against the environmental risks that have severe and systematic impacts across the economy. With its Action Plan, the World Bank Group is helping countries to combat disaster risk through a combination of measures to build resilience in people, infrastructure, and economies and reduce the number of deaths that occur.

The World Bank has also helped low-income countries across the world to strengthen their social safety nets and make them more shock-responsive, so they are better prepared for crises.

Examples from around the world show that during the pandemic, countries with strong social protection systems were able to ramp up support to their populations faster and more effectively.

Among its major initiatives, the World Bank has prioritized investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency as key to helping clients reduce emissions. It has supported some of the world’s biggest solar projects, such as in Morocco and Egypt.

In the larger context, the challenge of climate is also an opportunity to create new avenues of employment. New studies show that renewable technologies are providing a fair number of jobs around the world.

In the energy sector, the bank’s Lighting Global program has built an international off-grid market which now supports a $1 billion-a- year industry providing energy access to over 150 million people.

Over the last four years, WB-supported projects have brought on stream about 1,000 MW of new green, climate-friendly power, through geo-thermal, solar, and hydro.

With transport responsible for a quarter of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions globally, the bank is supporting clients to invest in public transit systems, shifting freight from roads to railways and, where possible, to waterways, which have the lowest emissions per ton kilometer of transport.

The bank is backing a rail corridor dedicated to moving freight between the Indian megacities of Delhi and Kolkata and is looking to support inland waterways for moving freight and people across Bangladesh, India and Nepal.

The World Bank’s next Climate Change Action Plan (2020-2025), already underway, aims to boost support for countries to take ambitious climate action by increasing financing for adaptation and supporting increased systemic climate action at the country level. Implementing it as countries also grapple with the economic consequences of COVID-19 means looking at interventions that can deliver short-term objectives – such as jobs and economic growth – as well as longer-term ones, like decarbonization and boosting adaptation and resilience, helping clients shape a sustainable recovery.

Based on its past experience, the WB now plans to go beyond traditional climate sectors to make sure that climate actions are core parts of the economic recovery from the pandemic. This is how the bank can deliver the critical systemic, economy-wide change for its clients and help set development pathways that can unlock low-carbon and resilient benefits for decades to come.