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How to Help Least Developed Countries in Climate Crisis

Tom Grubisich's picture

Least Developed Countries, we know, will be heavily impacted by climate change.  Indeed, drought, storm-caused flooding, rising sea levels, and heat waves are already taking their tolls in those 50-some nations.  But LDCs don't have enough resources to adapt adequately to adverse weather that regularly devastates communities and their ecosystems, reinforcing poverty.   The International Institute for Environment and Development details this mounting problem on its website.  It's not just the costs of adaptation for LDCs, but also a shortage of human resources, which, as the Institute says, are needed for "pressing and clearly definable issues such as health, employment, housing and education."

One way out of this bind is what the Institute is doing through its climate-change initiative -- "supporting, increasing and utilising the capacity of development practitioners, government agencies, NGOs and community-based organisations to enhance resilience to climate change."

DM2009 and its finalists are a perfect fit.

The IIED was founded in 1971 by economist Barbara Ward, a pioneer in promoting sustainable development, who frequently wrote about the disparities she saw in global wealth distribution.

The above graphic -- from the IIED -- lists LDCs, including Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which are especially vulnerable to rising sea levels.

'I Explained It to My Daughter, and She Understood'

Tom Grubisich's picture

If Sergio Margulis didn't grow up to be an environmental economist, he could have, no doubt, become an equally successful stand-up comic.  Who else could get some laughs when trying to explain the econometrics of climate-change adaptation?

The occasion was the recent World Bank-sponsored panel discussion on the draft report "The Costs to Developing Countries of Adapting to Climate Change," of which Margulis was co-author.  Of course, Margulis' primary intention wasn't to get his audience to laugh, but to understand a complex but increasingly important issue that's going to occupy global attention for perhaps the rest of the century as developing and developed countries try to put a ceiling on more global warming.

Margulis, Lead Environmental Economist with the World Bank's Environment Department, was joined at the panel by report co-author Urvashi Narain, Senior Environmental Economist at the World Bank; Otaviano Canuto, Vice President and Head of the Poverty Reduction and Economic Management (PREM) Network at the World Bank, and Warren Evans, Director of the World Bank's Environment Department, who moderated the standing-room-only event.

Here's the video of the discussion.  (Sorry we couldn't embed it.)

Climate Threats Hit Low-Income Countries Hardest

Tom Grubisich's picture

As the table shows, many low-income countries face the most climate threats, as identified by the World Bank.  A number of the most-threatened countries are also in the Least Developed Countries category, and six of them are in "fragile situations," also as identified by the World Bank.

Among the hundred finalists in the recent DM2009 competition, 26 of them came from most-threatened countries.  Bangladesh, which ranked first among most threatened, had five entries, but no competition winners.

Pledges of Adaptation Collaboration Need a Close Watch

Tom Grubisich's picture

Many developing countries are busy planning to adapt to climate change that is already heavily impacting their people, natural resources, and economies, especially agriculture.   But what actually works in particular countries, and at what cost, are often questions that National Adaptation Plans of Action (NAPAs) and other strategies don't adequately answer.
To find answers that can be tailored to the conditions of individual developing countries -- there are 130 -- the World Bank is leading a pilot study of climate adaptation in Bangladesh, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique, Samoa, and Vietnam.

The concept note says "overall oversight of study progress" will include, besides the six national governments, "civil society representation."  But some DM2009 finalists say they see little evidence, based on their own experiences, that governments in their countries are serious about collaboration with the private sector.

Successful climate adaptation depends on public-private collaboration, especially on the community level, where so much adaptation integrated with economic development has to take place.  NGOs with strong community roots -- like many of the DM finalists -- can also help close the capacity gap that hampers public programming in developing countries.

DM2009 Finalists and Other NGOs Must Tell Their Story

Tom Grubisich's picture

With global warming heating up, will non-governmental organizations be major players in forging and implementing climate adaptation as developing countries struggle to cope with the adverse effects of climate change on their people, resources, and economies?

The answer should be a no-brainer yes.  Many NGOs -- pre-eminently those that populate the DM2009 finalist roster -- have strong local roots.  Community connections are an essential ingredient of effective climate adaptation action.  But many DM2009 finalists express frustrations in their attempts to collaborate with governments in their countries.  Those frustrations have been detailed in this blog -- here, here, here, and here, among other places.

Will There Be a Battle Over Climate Change Funds in Developing World?

Tom Grubisich's picture

We now know the price of climate adaptation in developing countries –- US$75-100 billion per year between 2010 and 2050.  The recently published costs were explained by their World Bank estimators in a panel discussion at the Bank on Tuesday.  But who, exactly, will do the adapting?

Most of the developing countries that will be hardest hit by climate change are poor (20) and some of them are classified as fragile (six).  Poor –- and especially fragile – countries are already hard pressed to effectively implement current economic growth strategies because their governments don’t have adequate capacity in launching projects (e.g., local ownership, rigorous monitoring and evaluation, focus on results, feedback mechanism).   Multilateral development banks, like the World Bank, are increasingly turning to non-governmental organizations to close the capacity gap.

Climate-adaptation spending – if it’s fully funded – would equal what’s now spent on “official development assistance” (ODA).  Besides, climate adaptation, because it's unexplored terrain in many respects, will require a lot of learning, knowledge, and innovation.  So how would the doubling of development funding be matched by capacity?  The new cost-of-adaptation study says, very confidently: “For all sectors, adaptation costs include the costs of planned, public policy adaptation measures and exclude the costs of private adaptation.” 

Does that mean that NGOs wouldn’t get a share of the billions of dollars in annual climate-adaptation funds that are expected to flow from developed to developing countries in coming years as part of the recent Copenhagen “accord”?  Not necessarily.  After Tuesday’s panel, I asked the chief author of the World Bank cost study, Sergio Margulis, if his numbers covered only climate adaptation carried out by national and regional governments, or might they be a “hybrid” that included NGOs. “A hybrid,” he said.

What's Next for Non-Winning DM Finalists? An Answer From One

Mohammad Abu Musa's picture

Climate change has uprooted 2 million people in the coastal belt of Bangladesh.  They can't afford to be a direct buyer of the refugee resettlement service and economic recovery project that brought me to DM2009 as a finalist (but wasn't a winning entry).  Some third-party economic buyer is required on humanitarian grounds. In the absence of such a buyer, my project got bogged down in frustration, but, gradually, we're trying to recover.

Some other of the 72 non-winning DM finalists where the target beneficiaries cannot afford to be the direct economic buyer may have similar stories.

DM2009 finalists have detailed in this DM blog -- here and here -- the problems of NGOs trying to form climate-adaptation partnerships with national governments.  Too often, collaboration doesn't happen.
The World Bank can help make collaboration happen by exercising its convening leadership -- with international donors and national governments as they prepare their climate- adaptation programs.  “Just because they don’t get a prize from us doesn't necessarily mean they wither away,” said Aleem Walji, the World Bank Institute's Innovation Practice Manager.  “Indeed, we know that many finalists are able to leverage the Development Marketplace experience to get other support. I think we have a responsibility to try and support this entire community of finalists.”

Let there be a “Finalists72 Campaign” to turn all ideas into action to save the planet.

(Photo credit of Bangladeshi woman in search of drinking water after cyclone Aila on May 26, 2009: Abir Abdullah/Oxfam/Flickr.)

Economics of Climate Adaptation: An Expert Examination

Tom Grubisich's picture

Adaptation to climate change presents a cluster of question marks for developing countries:  What works, and where? How can different cost estimates be reconciled?  How should adaptation be integrated with agriculture and other development that are increasingly threatened  by flooding, drought, and rising sea levels?

Answers will be offered by top experts from the World Bank Environment Department's Climate Change Team in the special program "The Economics of Adaptation to Climate Change: The Global Report" on Tuesday, Jan. 12.  The place is the World Bank "J" Building on 18th Street NW between G and H Streets, Room B1-080. This blog will do a followup on the program.

Presenters will be World Bank environmental economists Sergio Margulis and Urvashi Narain, who were lead authors of the widely quoted report "The Costs to Developing Countries of Adaptating to Climate Change: New Methods and Estimates." The report says the cost of adapting to an approximately 2° C warmer world by 2050 is in the range of US$75 billion to $100 billion a year between 2010 and 2050.  The authors note the cost is about the same amount that developed countries now give in aid to developing countries.

What are Key Areas for Regional Cooperation in South Asia?

Ejaz Ghani's picture

As discussed in my last two entries, South Asia's Infrastructure Deficit and Integrating the two South Asias, regional cooperation can be a key instrument in meeting the development needs of South Asia. In this piece, I will discuss specific areas that will bring the most region-wide benefits in my view.

The three priority areas for regional cooperation include telecoms and internet, energy, and transport. A regional telecom network and a high-bandwidth, high-speed internet-based network could help improve education, innovation, and health. A regional network would facilitate better flow of ideas, technology, investments, goods and services. It would facilitate greater interactions between knowledge workers in areas such as high-energy physics, nanotechnology, and medical research. There are untapped positive synergies at the regional level that would come from information sharing and competition in ideas among universities, non-university research and teaching entities, libraries, hospitals, and other knowledge institutions.

A Graphic View of the Wide Split in Copenhagen

Tom Grubisich's picture

This World Bank data visualization shows how the lowest-income countries compare with the highest-income ones on carbon-dioxide emissions (the main man-made contributor to global warming) and energy use.   The lowest-income countries -- blue, purple, and pink balls -- are clustered at the low end of both axes.  CO2 emissions per capita are visualised horizontally and energy use, vertically.  The highest-income countries -- orange -- are at the higher end of both axes. 

The big purple ball in the lower-left-hand corner is Bangladesh, the most populous of the 49 Least Developed Countries.  It's per-capita CO2 emissions are .030 metric tons and its energy use per capita is the equivalent of 160.5 kilograms of oil.  By comparison, the U.S. -- the biggest orange ball toward the upper-right-hand corner -- produces 19.50 tons of CO2 per capita --- 65 times Bangladesh's - and its energy use is the equivalent of 7,760 kilograms of oil -- 48 times Bangladesh's.

The size of each ball reflects the population of the country it represents.

The visualization also includes the fast-growing middle-ncome countries of China (the biggest pink ball),  India (the biggest purple ball southwest of China), Brazil (the green ball to the left of China), and the Russian Federation (the blue ball in the middle of all the smaller orange balls).  All those countries are becoming major emitters of CO2.