With rigorous economic research and practical policy solutions, we focus on the issues and institutions that are critical to global development. Explore our core themes and topics to learn more about our work.
In timely and incisive analysis, our experts parse the latest development news and devise practical solutions to new and emerging challenges. Our events convene the top thinkers and doers in global development.
“Corn ethanol is a done deal…. There’s no stopping it.”
Princeton University scholar, Tim Searchinger, on The Grist blog in 2009
In response to this year’s severe drought and surging corn prices, the governors of North Carolina and Arkansas asked the Environmental Protection Agency to waive the mandate for blending ethanol into gasoline. Governor Perry of Texas filed a similar request during the price spikes of 2008 that the EPA rejected. After that, global debate over the implications of crop-based renewable fuels for food prices and climate change escalated. Some policymakers responded, but only by tinkering around the margins: the US Congress allowed $6 billion in subsidies to expire last year in the face of intense budget pressures, and the European Commission recently proposed halving its mandate for food-based biofuels.
In a break with the post-World War II practice of international organizations being headquartered in either Europe or the US, South Korea beat five nations to become the host of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), a new entity that may become a key player in international efforts to avert runaway climate change. The GCF interim secretariat announced late last month that Songdo International Business District, a gleaming new satellite city adjacent to South Korea’s main airport, won the competition to host the fund. The decision is expected to be confirmed at the 18th Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that will get underway in Doha, Qatar, later this month.
I got to be part of a panel yesterday at the UN, grandly titled “Conceptualizing a Set of Sustainable Development Goals - A Special Event of the Second Committee of the UN General Assembly.” I was excited to be there not just because of the location and topic, but also because of considerable respect for the rest of the panel, including Andrew Revkin of the NYT Dot Earth blog, WRI’s Manish Bapna and Oxfam’s Kate Raworth.
Between 2000 and 2010, the number of mobile phone subscriptions in developing countries increased from 215 million to 4.1 billion. From a luxury for the rich, the mobile has become a ubiquitous presence in rural and urban areas alike, even in some of the most fragile countries in the world. Afghanistan saw 38 subscriptions per 100 people in 2010, an average of more than one phone per household. And while ubiquity in Afghanistan is evidence enough that mobile phone access hardly guarantees quality of life or sustainable development, mobiles have proven themselves powerful tools to improve
American taxpayers can celebrate the expiration at the end of 2011 of more than $6 billion in subsidies for ethanol and other biofuels, but other absurdities and distortions remain. For example, as Matthew Wald recently reported in the New York Times, fuel producers will pay penalties to the U.S.
Finally, some good news from the world’s tropical forests: overall, large-scale clearing appears to have dropped sharply since 2005. This is the bottom line in the first global report and database from FORMA (Forest Monitoring for Action), which I have developed with Dan Hammer and Robin Kraft during the past three years.