World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim gave a lecture at Georgetown University on March 18, 2015, about the development challenges created by climate change and actions that can be taken now to reduce the drivers of climate change and the impact.
Climate change is fundamentally a development issue. It threatens to exacerbate poverty and hurt economic growth. At the same time, how countries grow and the investments they make to meet the energy, food and water needs of an expanding population can fuel climate change, raising risks worldwide, or contribute to solutions.
In a lecture to students at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., on March 18, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim laid out five key areas where policies and growth choices can help reduce the drivers of climate change.
“We have to keep the economy growing – there is no turning back on growth,” President Kim told the student audience. “What we have to do is decouple growth from carbon emissions.”
Put a price on carbon
Cutting emissions starts with clear policy signals.
Carbon pricing systems – such as emissions trading systems that cap emissions or carbon taxes that charge per ton – send a long-term signal to companies by creating an incentive to reduce polluting behaviors and to invest in cleaner energy choices and low-carbon innovation.
End fossil fuel subsidies
Fossil fuel subsidies send a different signal – one that can encourage waste and discourage low-carbon growth. By phasing out harmful fossil fuel subsidies, countries can reallocate their spending to where it is most needed and most effective, including proving targeted support for the poor.
Build low-carbon, resilient cities
Getting prices right is one part of the equation. Another piece is building a sustainable future, because all development happens in the context of climate change.
There will be more infrastructure built in the next 20 years than in the past 6,000, the president told the audience. Cities are growing fast, particularly in the developing world. Just over half the global population is urban today; by 2050, cities are expected to hold two-thirds of the world population.
Increase energy efficiency and use of renewable energy
When we talk about energy, we have to talk about access. Worldwide, about 1.2 billion people lack access to electricity and 2.8 billion rely on solid fuels for cooking, such as wood, charcoal, and coal, which cause harmful indoor air pollution.
Through the Sustainable Energy for All initiative, the World Bank Group support three goals for 2030: achieve universal access to modern energy, double the rate of improvement in energy efficiency, and double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.
Energy efficiency improvements are crucial. Every gigawatt saved is a gigawatt that didn’t have to be produced. Globally, energy use is about one-third lower today than it would have been without the past 20 years of energy efficiency improvements.
Implement climate-smart agriculture and nurture forest landscapes
The fifth area for action takes in both mitigation and adaptation. Climate-smart agriculture techniques help farmers increase their farms’ productivity and resilience to the impacts of climate change, such as droughts, while also creating carbon sinks that help reduce net emissions. Forests, too, are valuable carbon sinks that absorb carbon and store it in soils, trees, and foliage.
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