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Climate goals not achievable without landscape-level focus, says World Bank VP

"The science is now crystal clear; the economics are compelling."
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Rachel Kyte, the World Bank Group’s vice president: "We will engineer a clean energy revolution in the next few decades."
Rachel Kyte, the World Bank Group’s vice president: “We will engineer a clean energy revolution in the next few decades.”

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LIMA, Peru—Feeding a growing population while curbing deforestation and tackling climate change will require fundamentally managing landscapes differently, said a top climate policy expert.

On the need to take an integrated landscape approaches to sustainable development, “the science is now crystal-clear, [and] the economics are compelling,” said Rachel Kyte, the World Bank Group’s vice president and special envoy for climate change, at the 2014 Global Landscapes Forum. The forum, organized by the Center for International Forestry Research on the sidelines of the UN climate talks, brought together climate change negotiators, government ministers, scientists, civil society and other experts.

“Without landscapes, we are just not going to be able to achieve what the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] has said quite clearly now must be the goal,” she said. “But … I don’t think that we have yet successfully made the case to the people outside of this room that this is economically and financially possible.”

Addressing an audience of more than 1,700 people, Kyte stated that making landscape approaches work hinges on “exactly what you do with that compelling economics, and how you integrate this into your vision of your country’s future.”

Speaking of the World Bank’s plans and financing related to climate and forests, Kyte said the bank cannot do it alone.

“We need every development institution, bilateral and multi-lateral, to join us if we are going to be able to direct long-term financing into the things that we value most. And those are the things that we find in an integrated landscape.”

Watch Rachel Kyte’s speech, above; an edited transcript follows.

Rachel Kyte’s speech:

A year ago in Warsaw, we talked about the journey that we’ve made since Rio when we said, look, we’ve really got to all come together, from across the agriculture community, across the forest community, and integrate into one community.

Here you all are again. There are more of you, I think, and there’s a long list of people that couldn’t even get into the hotel. This is a very long journey. It’s been a long journey to get here, and it’s going to be a long journey going forward. It’s very important that when you get to the top of one hill, you stop, you look back, and you see where you came from, and that you stop, look forward, and see where you’re going.

So today is about implementation, but it is also about realizing what it took to get here, learning the lessons of success and failure, and redoubling our commitment to go further, faster.

Since we met last year lots of things have happened. Lots of good things have happened, and some maybe not so good, but they are all lessons worth learning.

We will have to fundamentally manage our landscapes differently to provide the nutrition for the people who will live on this planet

Rachel Kyte

I think the most important thing is that the IPCC report that came out in early November really helped us in terms of making the argument about why we have to take a landscapes approach, and why this has to rise up the list of priorities even further.

By basically taking away all grounds for argument that the goal is anything but to decarbonize our economy by 2100, the report places firmly in the center of action our ability to manage our landscapes in a fundamentally different way than we have often been able to up to now.

We will engineer a clean energy revolution in the next few decades. We will engineer a revolution in the way urban transport systems work. We will engineer these revolutions.

But even if we are immensely successful in so doing, we will have to fundamentally manage our landscapes differently to provide the nutrition for the people who will live on this planet. To provide the livelihoods and the sustenance to those people who live in the rural areas. To provide ourselves with the diversity of nature that we need to survive. To provide ourselves with the ability to reduce emissions from our forests and our agricultural methods. To provide jobs and competitiveness to economies that must survive.

We will need to do all of that. And without landscapes, we are just not going to be able to achieve what the IPCC has said quite clearly now must be the goal. So I think, technically, we have lots of things that we need to share, but I don’t think that we have yet successfully made the case to the people outside of this room, that this is economically and financially possible.

We’ve been saying for a year now that we believe that the science is clear, that the economics are compelling, and the politics remain challenging. I think the science is now crystal-clear. I think the economics are compelling—there’s been report after report after report. But exactly what you do with that compelling economics, and how you integrate this into your vision of your country’s future, is exactly what’s at stake here at COP20, and between this meeting and the meeting in Paris.

The way in which the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) take a comprehensive approach to our responsibility to effectively manage our economies, will really be the test of whether they succeed or not. This is about really understanding the options available to each country, comprehensively across their economy. And obviously for agriculture-based and forest-based economies, these INDCs will have to be able to show the road forward based on your work, and based on the examples that you can give.

Between the Forest Carbon Partnership fund and the Biocarbon Fund, we have more than a billion dollars worth of investible resources

Rachel Kyte

We take very seriously our responsibility as the World Bank Group to be a long-term partner of choice as countries develop their INDCs, and as countries begin to think through the at-scale and the speeded-up action that is needed.

In fact, this provokes in us a need for more reflection on how we work. You will hear later in the forum from my colleague Paula Caballero about the way in which we think about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to the climate challenge. She will lead our effort around reframing our forest work.

But one of the things that we know we need to do is to take the extraordinary financial resources which have been so generously provided by just a few countries for taking REDD+ to scale, and package it in such a way that countries can access the resources in a much more user-friendly way than has been the case in the past.

So, between the Forest Carbon Partnership fund and the Biocarbon Fund, we have more than a billion dollars worth of investible resources. We also have a long list of countries that are ready to access that money. And this money has to be packaged in a phased approach, which will really allow us to show how this work can happen at scale, and how it can work in the context of an integrated landscape approach.

We take that responsibility very clearly. We intend to program that money much quicker than we have done up to now, and we will of course continue to work with all of you to do that.

We would encourage those who have been so generous in their ability to finance the piloting of different approaches on how we can finance this implementation, to continue to do so. We are extremely grateful to those who put additional money last week into the Climate Investment Funds (CIF). Another $600 million coming in both to the Forest Investment Program (FIP) and into the Scaling Up Renewable Energy in Low Income Countries Program (SREP). That’s another $600 million for implementation right now. There’s nothing that needs to be done in setting anything up for that to go.

So that means that we will be allowed to work in another seven countries. In fact, we are $800 million short of being able to fund the entire pipeline that we sit on.

Complemented by the contributor’s decision to keep the climate investment funds going for another couple of years while other funds are establishing themselves, we have the mechanisms to scale now. I think this is very important.

The other thing that has happened since we last saw you is changes in how you understand value, and how you understand the integration of a landscape approach into the responsibility to manage our economies differently. And also, what that means to a development institution in a year where development will be discussed alongside climate action.

In the last year, we have put climate and disaster risk screening on all of our lending to the poorest countries. In the last year we have introduced our own internal price on carbon. In the last year we have agreed how to set discount rates for intergenerational equity for every loan that we make. In the last year we have agreed to the extension and roll-out of greenhouse gas accounting for all of our lending.

Many of the tools, and many of the answers are in this room, and we will be your partner on this journey

Rachel Kyte

There’s still more for us to do. But we need every development institution, bilateral and multi-lateral, to join us if we are going to be able to direct long-term financing into the things that we value most. And those are the things that we find in an integrated landscape.

We’re not there. I’m not here to say that we’ve figured everything out. But there is a fundamental shift in multilateralism and multilateral aid and development at stake.

If indeed the challenge is to decarbonize the global economy by 2100, and at the same time to protect natural resources, while providing jobs, growth, opportunity, and prosperity to those people to have the right to believe that they can achieve it, then that’s a very different challenge than the one that we, or the United Nations, was created for 70 years ago.

We were created for world of post-war reconstruction and development. Now what we have to do is work hand-in-hand with all of you, and each of our shareholders and our member states, to continue to construct, and to continue to develop, and to decarbonize at the same time. It’s a fundamentally different challenge. Many of the tools, and many of the answers are in this room, and we will be your partner on this journey. Thank you.

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  • Linda Douglas

    Interesting material, indeed. I totally agree with you, that it’s imperative to focus on landscape issues and to be much more carefull when we speak about deforestation or CO2 emissions. Still, I understood that a very important role in climate change, maybe the most important role, is played by the oceans. They are the ones that most influence the climate and I think that we should also pay much more attention to the naval activities. For example, I’ve read, on http://www.1ocean-1climate.com/20th-century-climate-changed-by-the-naval-war.php, that the naval activities from the two World War influenced the climate in a very significant way. I think that this is a serious problem that we have to think about it.

  • Linda Douglas

    Interesting material, indeed. I totally agree with you, that it’s imperative to focus on landscape issues and to be much more carefull when we speak about deforestation or CO2 emissions. Still, I understood that a very important role in climate change, maybe the most important role, is played by the oceans. They are the ones that most influence the climate and I think that we should also pay much more attention to the naval activities. For example, I’ve read, on http://www.1ocean-1climate.com/20th-century-climate-changed-by-the-naval-war.php, that the naval activities from the two World War influenced the climate in a very significant way. I think that this is a serious problem that we have to think about it.