Act Now and Together
Climate change has become the subject at many negotiating tables since the Kyoto Protocol, but “Act Now and Together” is the rallying cry reached by consensus of the international community. This is a challenge that human society faces as a unit; what we do now will decide what the climate, and our planet will look like in future. Brandon offers his opinion that “China deserves a lot of credit for how it’s coping with the climate crisis.”
In recent years, China diligently made good on an array of policies to promote energy efficiency and energy pricing, experimented with trading platforms for carbon reduction and energy conservation, and reduced its imports by developing renewable energy and related technologies. “China is doing the job quite nicely,” Brandon adds, “and not just China, but every country will be under pressure to do even more, so prepare to keep trying harder and harder until we’ve reduced our emission to sustainable levels.”
The World Bank, as trustee of many funds, provides substantial help to China to realize its environmental targets. Conceptually, the Chinese government distinguishes development financing from climate change financing. The World Bank offers both, including the Clean Development Mechanism, Global Environmental Facility, and the Climate Investment Funds, all of which offer quite a few choices to the country.
The World Bank has conducted many studies showing which policies can be adopted that spread benefits across the economy and the environment. Fundamentally, many pro-environment polices are also good news for economic growth. Take energy efficiency for example. As people drive less and use less gasoline, they save money, the country reduces its dependence on imported oil, and there is less pollution in the city. “Even if we acted entirely selfishly, we would still fit the pattern of sustainable development, because it makes economic sense,” says Brandon.
As one of the biggest developing countries, China's role in the upcoming Cancun Conference is considered to be as important as that of the U.S. “They not only represent themselves, but developing countries in general,” Brandon points out. He knows the effects of climate change – higher temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, rising sea levels, and more frequent weather-related disasters – will hit developing countries the hardest, posing risks to their agriculture, and food and water supplies. “I think they will balance their approach, and measure their national interests and those of the cohort of developing countries while negotiating what they think is fair.”
Technically, the World Bank does not have a seat at the Cancun Conference table with other negotiators. But Brandon and his colleagues will follow the process and outcomes very closely, especially discussions on projects they support. One brainchild is a carbon market proposal, which addresses scenarios for climate-related financing and carbon trading in a post-2012 world, when the current Kyoto Protocol expires. The other is the REDD-plus.
REDD, aka Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, aims to protect forests in developing countries. Currently the loss of healthy, functioning forests is estimated to account for 20 to 25 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, a deficit even higher than that created by the transportation sector. REDD-plus calls for grounding projects in local communities and with indigenous peoples who have a stake in woodland well-being.
Then there is always cold, hard cash. The REDD-plus mechanism is designed to allow developed countries – the U.S. or EU for example – to pay Indonesia not to chop its trees down, thus protecting forests that are the world’s ecological heritage, and may be its salvation. “There are a few countries that have a lot of forest, such as Brazil, Indonesia and Congo,” notes Brandon. “If the mechanism is negotiated and approved in Cancun, it will be a very positive step.”