Environment Forum

The World Bank’s $6 billion man on climate change

BIRDFLU INDONESIAAs the special envoy on climate change for the World Bank, Andrew Steer might be thought of as the $6 billion man of environmental finance. He oversees more than that amount for projects to fight the effects of global warming.

“More funds flow through us to help adaptation and mitigation than anyone else,” Steer said in a conversation at the bank’s Washington headquarters. Named to the newly created position in June, Steer said one of his priorities is to marshall more than $6 billion in the organization’s Climate Investment Funds to move from smaller pilot projects to large-scale efforts.

While the World Bank is not a party to global climate talks set for Cancun, Mexico, later this year, it is deeply engaged in this issue, Steer said. Acknowledging that an international agreement on climate change is a long shot this year, he said there are still opportunities to make changes to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that spur climate change.

PERU/“We do see there are opportunities,” Steer said. “The mistake would be if it’s sort of all or nothing.” The bank is strongly supporting action to limit deforestation, offer quick financing to start climate projects and reform carbon markets to extend them to countries that have been left out so far.

Even though the World Bank won’t be at the negotiating table in Cancun, its members will be there, and 80 percent of them want the bank to focus on climate change, Steer said. It’s all part of a what he sees as a fundamental shift in the international attitude toward dealing with this problem.

Haiti’s tragedy belongs to the environment

QUAKE-HAITI/

global_post_logo This commentary by Stephan Faris originally appeared in GlobalPost. The views expressed are his own.

Most people wouldn’t consider an earthquake to be an environmental issue. But while the tremors that shattered Haiti early this month have nothing to do with the island’s degradation, the extent of the suffering they unleashed is a direct result of the country’s ecological woes.

The reason can be seen from the sky. The devastated nation shares its island with the Dominican Republic, but misfortune always seems to strike on its side of a border that is demarcated by an abrupt shift from lush green to bare brown. While the Dominican Republic has largely managed to preserve its trees, Haiti has lost 98 percent of its forest cover.

In dengue-infested Indonesian village: clinic or trees?

It was as I lay in a Singapore hospital bed — ablaze with dengue fever but shivering in a sweat that chilled my aching bones — that I began to understand why villagers in a remote part of Indonesia would trade their forest for decent health services.

Teluk Meranti is a tiny, 800-family fishing hamlet in Riau province of Sumatra island in Indonesia, where dengue is common but health services are poor and infrastructure is very basic.

With a monthly income of around $200, the average Teluk Meranti dweller doesn’t have much — but they do have customary rights to an enormous tract of rainforest in the lush Kampar Peninsula, home to rare flora and fauna.

Can farms and forests mix?

Forests and farms don’t mix, according to conventional wisdom.

Farmers are often portrayed as the villains, slashing and burning trees to clear land for crops and wrecking forests from the Amazon to Indonesia (…not to mention Europe, where people cleared most forests thousands of years ago).

But a report today by the World Agroforestry Centre indicates that farms aren’t such enemies of trees as usually thought - it says tree canopies cover at least 10 percent of almost half the world’s farmland.  That is a gigantic area the size of China, or Canada. (For a story, click here).

Ten percent doesn’t sound much but one common definition of a “forest” by the U.N.s’ Food and Agriculture Organisation is an area where tree canopies cover at least 10 percent. It excludes farmland or urban areas (– otherwise your local supermarket car park might qualify if it’s got a few trees dotted around the tarmac).

Peru clashes raise green issues

Clashes in the Amazon between indigenous protestors and Peru’s army that killed some 60 people last week throw some old issues into sharp new relief: development versus the environment and local versus foreign control of natural resources.

Indigenous tribes, worried they will lose control over natural resources, have protested since April seeking to force Peru’s Congress to repeal new laws that encourage foreign mining and energy companies to invest billions of dollars in huge tracts of pristine rain forest.

In the developing world, extractive industries have a bad record of bringing benefits to local people. Prime examples include the oil-rich Niger Delta in Nigeria and mineral-rich South Africa under apartheid.

Spotting the difference in the spots

The Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has released some pictures from the first large-scale census of jaguars in the Amazon region of Ecuador—one of the most biologically rich regions on the planet.

One of the pictures, shown here, was taken with a  “camera trap” that photographs animals remotely when they trip a sensor that detects body heat.

The ongoing census, which began in 2007, is working to establish baseline population numbers as oil exploration and subsequent development puts growing pressure on wildlife in Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park and adjacent Waorani Ethnic Reserve,” WCS said in a statement.   

Will Obama see the forest for the trees?

A Chinese campaigner has urged U.S. President-elect Barack Obama to prove his green credentials, asking him to offset the emissions generated by his inauguration by funding a forest in China.

A carbon fund named “Obama, future” could invest in increased forest coverage in another country and Obama himself could plant a tree there, Lin Hui said in an open letter, published on www.ditan360.com. Lin hopes that country will be China.

Lin’s appeal is based on estimates by conservative U.S. think-tank, the Institute for Liberty, that people travelling to attend Tuesday’s inauguration would generate 220,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

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