Climate change and the Development Gap

This year’s Climate and Society class is out in the field (or lab or office) completing a summer internship or thesis. They’ll be documenting their experiences one blog post at a time. Read on to see what they’re up to.

Angela Soriano Quevedo, C+S ’18

(Source: UNEP)

Extreme events like droughts and floods are projected to become more common in a changing climate. As they do, their effects on agriculture, health and infrastructure will disproportionately impact those who already have limited socio-economic resources. For this reason, several organizations focused on international development have started to consider climate change projections in their projects and operations. Their goal is to avoid increasing the development gap. 

Considering these projections and its impacts on developing nations, the World Bank Group has developed several tools to mitigate climate change. For example, they have implemented projects related to green bonds and carbon credits. However, regardless the organization’s current mitigation efforts, there is already enough climate change locked into the earth’s system to warrant urgent action to support developing countries to manage climate risks. 

The need to increase climate change adaptation requires establishing priorities, pathways and the efficient management of financial resources. Current climate impacts and vulnerabilities are evident, not to mention the urgency of avoiding future impacts due to still rising levels of carbon dioxide emissions. For this reason, the World Bank has started to develop its Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience Strategy. The objective is to develop a roadmap to increase the bank’s efforts on climate risk management at the project and operational level.

The strategy will be presented during the 24th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Conference of the Parties held in Poland at the end of the year.

During my summer internship, I supported the Bank’s Research and Advisory Unit in drafting and analyzing information for this strategy. Specifically, I assisted them in evaluating the adaptation co-benefits of their forestry projects. Furthermore, I did a desk review of internal documents related to adaptation and resilience.

My first month at the bank was challenging. I had to adapt to living in a new city, understand the different thematic and regional units within the organization, attend a large number of meetings, as well as read work-related documents. Nonetheless, as I increasingly understood how the strategy would be developed and how the organization worked, I became more comfortable with my responsibilities.

Coming from a developing country myself, I am aware that governments face challenges that require immediate action. Nevertheless, some of them could be resolved in a sustainable manner if they considered longer time scales. For example, every year in the Peruvian Andes, families lose their animals and crops due to the low temperatures and inadequate infrastructure. If decision makers invested in the construction of more resilient housing and infrastructure, instead of providing blankets annually, the communities would likely be less vulnerable.

Children in the Andes receiving clothing for the cold season (Source: Global Humanitaria/flickr)

In another meeting, another official highlighted that uncertainty is one of the reasons why governmental authorities do not consider climate change adaptation in their projects. Representatives from national governments think that it is difficult to forecast climate change due to the different development scenarios. For this reason, they prefer to not contemplate long-term climate change projections. Additionally,  local authorities have often pointed out that there is not enough climate data available to design what they believe would be effective adaptation projects.

Through these discussions, I learned how difficult it can be to integrate adaptation into governmental planning. How can you convince a governmental official that investing now more could avoid a greater loss later? How do you explain technical climate information to a decision-maker who has a policy background?

My main objective when studying during the academic year was to be able to understand technical climate information and support policy development. I hope to support the development of my country as I am finally able to summarize complex, scientific information in accessible language to a wide audience.

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