Reviews | How the World Bank can meet the needs of a changing climate

In 2009, donor countries pledged to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020 to help low-income countries mitigate and adapt. They have raised just $83 billion, including $36.9 billion from multilateral development banks and climate funds, in 2020. These broken promises have not gone unnoticed. According to Ephraim Mwepya Shitima, chair of the African Group of Climate Change Negotiators, many developing countries, including those in Africa, have presented ambitious plans to reduce emissions in the future, but have been “hampered by the pledged financial support, which fell short of expectations.”

Although Covid, inflation and the war-related energy crisis in Ukraine have weighed on government budgets everywhere, it would be unwise to ignore the importance and potential of investing in climate finance. According to Devesh Kapur, a professor at Johns Hopkins and co-author of a history of the World Bank, raising an additional $100 billion in lending capacity for the World Bank could require donors to provide about $20 billion in cash. The cost to the United States, which owns 16% of the shares, would be $3.2 billion, an amount that could be paid over five years.

Getting fresh money is important, but it’s not enough. The bank should also adopt new strategies and rules that will allow it to get money faster to where it is most needed and where it will be used most effectively. For example, some small island states have per capita incomes too high for concessional lending under World Bank rules, despite their high vulnerability to climate change. These rules should be reviewed, in some cases, to ensure that climate finance prioritizes areas that will make the biggest difference.

The bank should also provide more grants and below-market climate-related financing, as Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts has called for. The World Bank and multilateral development banks have only provided 15% of their funding for adaptation and less than 5% of funding for mitigation through grants – a fraction he called “scandalously weak “. In comparison, the Green Climate Fund, a multilateral climate fund, provided grants 41% of the time for adaptation and mitigation projects.

The transformation needed at the World Bank will not be easy. But the departure of its former chairman, David Malpass, who says he will step down in June, could help boost confidence in the bank’s climate work. Mr. Malpass, who was nominated by the Trump administration in 2019, has been the subject of controversy since his disconcerting public refusal last year to acknowledge the role of human activity in the extreme weather resulting from climate change.


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