Despite the global community’s best intentions to keep global warming below a 2°C increase above pre-industrial climate, higher levels of warming are increasingly likely. Scientists agree that countries’ current United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change emission pledges and commitments would most likely result in 3.5° to 4°C warming.
Without serious policy changes that lead to drastic reductions in GHG emissions soon, the 4°C scenarios are devastating: the inundation of coastal cities; increasing risks for food production potentially leading to higher malnutrition rates; many dry regions becoming dryer, wet regions wetter; unprecedented heat waves in many regions, especially in the tropics; substantially exacerbated water scarcity in many regions; increased frequency of high-intensity tropical cyclones; and irreversible loss of biodiversity, including coral reef systems and fisheries. And most importantly, a 4°C world is so different from the current one that it comes with high uncertainty and new risks that threaten our ability to anticipate and plan for future adaptation needs.
For the World Bank Group, the steps are clear. First, we accept the science that humans are changing the climate. We are looking at all our business operations through a “climate lens.” Currently, the Bank is helping 130 countries take action on climate change by supporting on-the-ground action to finance projects that help the poor grow their way out of poverty and increase their resilience to climate change. Last year, we doubled financial lending that contributes to adaptation; this trend will accelerate in the future. Second, the Bank is taking decisive steps on mitigation. We are helping countries identify cost-effective options to reduce emissions, and exploring opportunities to deliver co-benefits, such as climate smart agriculture and resource efficiencies. The Bank’s infrastructure lending portfolio has moved toward less carbon intensive projects, and the share of renewable energy in our energy projects has doubled over the last five years. Countries must adopt aggressive national strategies for emissions reductions, and then show the political commitment needed to deliver on them. Innovation in energy efficiency and renewable energy will also prove vital to reducing carbon emissions. And countries — developed and emerging — need to make major headway in rolling back the $1.9 trillion in annual fossil fuel subsidies!
Erick Fernandes is an Adviser on Agriculture, Forestry & Climate Change at the World Bank and Co-Led the Bank’s Global Expert Team for Adaptation to Climate Change (GET-CCA). Erick is from a Kenya and grew up in the arid lands of northern Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia. He holds a PhD in Soil Science from North Carolina State University. Prior to joining the Bank he was an International Professor of Crop and Soil Sciences at Cornell University with research and teaching programs on tropical agroecosystems, hydrosheds, and natural resources. He served as the Global Coordinator of the GEF-UNDP-CGIAR program on Alternatives to Slash and Burn Agriculture (ASB) and was a Principle Investigator in the NASA-sponsored, Large Scale Biosphere-Atmosphere (LBA-Eco) program.