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Views from the Center

CGD experts offer ideas and analysis to improve international development policy. Also check out our Global Health blog and US Development Policy blog.

 

New Approach to Managing Environmental and Social Risks in World Bank Programs

On Thursday, August 4, the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved a new “Environmental and Social Framework” for bank-financed investment projects. While the new policy framework has cleared the hurdle of Board approval, many questions remain. Will the new framework succeed? Will it enhance country capability and commitment to managing environmental and social risks? And will it reduce the bureaucratic hassles associated with bank lending and bolster demand?

Doing More than Safeguarding the Safeguards at the World Bank

Depending on who you listen to, the World Bank has either just launched an unprecedented reach into the domestic political affairs of sovereign nations, or it has gutted the rules that have helped define its essential character as a global norm-setter. Both can’t be right, and most likely, neither is. To better understand the objectives of the bank's newly adopted “safeguards” regime, and why I’m somewhat encouraged by it, it’s worth looking more closely at the arguments of critics on both sides.

Missing in the Infrastructure Rush: Intact Ecosystems

This year, a common theme of those discussions was financing for infrastructure investment in developing countries.  I’m disappointed, but not surprised, that these conversations tend to focus exclusively on the need for new bricks-and-mortar infrastructure to meet needs for energy, water, or transport services, and seldom acknowledge the need to maintain the ecological infrastructure that already provides a large portion of those services for many of the world’s poor.

World Bank Chief Economist Endorses Carbon Charges at GDN Speech in Kuwait

World Bank chief economist Justin Lin endorsed charges for CO2 emissions in a keynote address at the 10th anniversary conference of the Global Development Network being held in Kuwait. Speaking in an ornate marble hall at the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development following an address by Mohammed Al-Sabah, Kuwait’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lin said that he recognized that such a call might not be politically correct in the oil-rich state.

Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright: The World Bank Undermines Own Conservation Efforts With Fossil Fuel Projects

This is a joint posting with Vijaya Ramachandran
The World Bank Group's board appears to be operating under a severe case of cognitive dissonance, supporting efforts to save tigers - threatened in India and Bangladesh by habitat loss due to climate change - while helping build coal-fired power plants that will only speed up this process.
Back in June the Bank launched a campaign to help governments develop and better manage forests inhabited by endangered tigers, including in the Sunderbans. This massive mangrove forest spans the India-Bangladesh border and is home to the Bengal tiger. While the Bank has a less-than-stellar conservation track record in Sunderbans, more important is the fact that this impoverished World Heritage site would be one of the hardest hit by climate change, whether from rising sea levels or the disappearance of the glacier that feeds the Ganges river.
But the Bank's commitment to poverty reduction and biodiversity stands in stark contrast to its bread-and-butter financing choices. As the Bank planned its save-the-tiger campaign, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Bank's private sector arm, was putting together a deal to finance $450 million of the misguided $4+ billion Tata Mundra Ultra Mega coal-fired plant in India. Financing 10% of the cost of a plant being built by India's largest company will help propel India's power sector emissions to third highest in the world within a few years, behind China and the U.S. Is this a smart use of scarce international public resources?

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