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Practise the preach

NOV 29 - The World Bank does deserve a credit for trying to inject some sense of global warming urgency just before the annual international climate negotiations kicked off in Doha this week.

A report aptly named “turn down the heat” it commissioned has warned that the world is on a path to a four degree Celsius warmer by the end of this century and that current carbon cut pledges will not help much.

“Even with the current mitigation commitments and pledges fully implemented, there is roughly a 20 per cent likelihood of exceeding four degree Celsius by 2100. If they are not met, a warming of four degree Celsius could occur as early as 2060s,” the report said.

“A four degree C world would be one of the unprecedented heat waves, severe drought and major floods in many regions, with serious impacts on ecosystems and associated services.”

Deeply deadlocked and cumbersomely complicated as they have become, climate negotiations indeed need the kind of nudging and prompting the bank did just before the international meet hosted by Qatar this time.

The bank’s warning did help to some extent set the initial tone for the meeting whose prospects look quite grim in current climate.

But that was largely about mitigation, meaning, containing carbon emissions from making the world more than two degrees Celsius warmer from the pre-industrial period.

What about climate change’s other equally important aspect: adaptation?

Adapting to inevitable climatic changes including floods, droughts, sea level rise, shifts in agricultural outputs, among others, have been key concerns for poor countries identified as most vulnerable climatically.

And the World Bank itself is involved in adaptation projects in several developing and least developed countries.

One of them is the Strategic Programme for Climate Resilience (SPCR) the Bank has piloted in a number of countries including Nepal under its Climate Investment Fund.

Has it then been serious about adaptation programs just as the way it wants others to “take global temperature rise seriously?”

The Nepal experience does not offer a positive picture.

Remember the raucous row on climate loan some two years ago?

It was this very SPCR that had stoked the controversy as Nepal became one of the first countries to accept its loan component while most developing and least developed countries rejected being loaned for adaptation projects.

Their argument was that rich and industrialised nations were responsible for climate change and therefore they had to compensate poor and vulnerable countries for their sufferings and so loan was out of question.

Amid protests and criticism and after senior government officials were summoned and grilled in the parliamentary committee, the government signed up to the SPCR with up to 50 million US Dollars grant and 36 million US Dollars as loan—which the bank now chooses to call “other concessional resources.”

The program has five components with three multilateral development banks: the WB, the Asian Development Bank and the International Finance Corporation.

Two of the components—building resilience to climate related hazards and enhancing climate resilience of endangered species—are handled by the WB that played a lead role when the SPCR deal was sealed.

So, given so much of a controversial background and increasing number of weather-related tragic events across the country, how much has the project moved, if at all?

There was no response from the WB for quite some time.

After repeated requests, all I was sent was a general link to the Climate Investment Fund and few introductory paragraphs on SPCR.

Whereas what was clearly sought by this scribe was whether there had been any progress on the WB’s component of the SPCR.

There was literally nothing on it.

The response sits quite oddly with the kind of “importance and urgency” the Bank has given to global warming through the report it had commissioned and brought out at the onset of the Doha climate talks.

“Greater adaptation and mitigation efforts are essential and solutions exist,” World Bank Group president Jim Young Kim said launching the report recently. “The world must tackle the problem of climate change more aggressively.”

So, why does his own office not do it then?

More so, when the bank’s track record has not been so great right from the initial days of the SPCR.

This column had revealed back in 2009 how one of the SPCR donors’ internal report had criticised the bank for “doing things its own way and not letting the government to be on the driving seat.”

Sources both with the officialdom and donor agencies had said, “What happened was missions (staff from the headquarters of the multilateral banks) would just fly in and hold meetings the way they wished to.”

So, perhaps the government is on the driving seat now and I should be following with it, you may think.

Ministry of Environment officials too could not provide any details of progress, if at all, on the SPCR.

Although, one of the donors, the Asian Development Bank had some details and updates on the components it is working with the government.

“Right now we are battling to bring down the huge number of consultants some donors are pushing for,” a source with the ministry said.

You will see more on the issue of consultants in this space in the days to come.

Meantime, donor countries including the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, the United States of America, among others, may do well following up with their money they put in the SPCR basket.

Just in case they were reassured by the WB’s four degree warning.

The writer is a BBC journalist based in London


Posted on: 2012-11-30 09:21

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