The World Bank and Climate Change: Forever a Big Fish in a Small Pond?

July 16, 2012

The world has a problem. There is no serious funding and no strong, credible, global framework for addressing a set of critical common challenges, including climate change, increasing cross-border health risks, the collapse of fisheries, and politically and economically destabilizing water and other natural resource scarcities.

The World Bank also has a problem. Its mission—to reduce poverty through shared growth in the developing world—is increasingly threatened by failures of global collective action on these problems.

In this paper, Nancy Birdsall discusses the future role of the World Bank in addressing global commons problems, using the example of climate management and financing to set out the principal-agent problem facing the global development and climate communities. She does so by taking into account the current global climate architecture and the implications of the shifting dynamics of power in the world as the advanced developing countries exercise their growing influence.

Birdsall concludes that a future role for the Bank or for that matter for any other global commons institutions would have to be the outcome of an initiative of China and other emerging markets, perhaps with the support of the oil-rich economies.

Updated September 19, 2012

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