What Counts as Climate? Preliminary Evidence from the World Bank’s Climate Portfolio

The World Bank is one of the largest providers of development finance to poor countries. In recent years, it has been under immense public pressure, mostly from its richest shareholders, to expand its climate portfolio. We examine the World Bank’s climate portfolio at the project level for the period 2000-2022 and find that financing is skewed towards mitigation projects. These projects lack estimates of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions, and there is no standardized reporting on GHG estimates across the portfolio. Further, hundreds of projects tagged climate—many in poorer countries—appear to have little to do with climate change mitigation or adaptation. We recommend that projects labeled climate should be accompanied by a clear explanation of why they mitigate emissions (with estimates of GHG reductions) or how they help increase resilience to climate-related events. Likewise, the World Bank must do more to identify outputs and verify outcomes for climate projects.

The data used in this paper is available at https://www.cgdev.org/world-bank-climate-project-paper-data.

Rights & Permissions

You may use and disseminate CGD’s publications under these conditions.

Image credit for social media/web: Jutta Benzenberg/World Bank