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.

from The Great Debate:

Cost of cap-and-trade for U.S. households

-- John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own --

How much are U.S. households prepared to pay to avert the threat of climate change? According to the latest polling data published by the Washington Post, the answer is not very much, probably not much more than $25 per month or $300 per year.

Most respondents (65 percent) believe the federal government should regulate greenhouse gases from sources like power plants, cars and factories, including those who believe this strongly (50 percent) or somewhat (15 percent). Only a minority think the government should not regulate them (29 percent).

While the margin favoring regulation has narrowed since the middle of the year (when it was 75 percent to 22 percent), probably in response to a vigorous opposition campaign, there is still a clear majority in favor of taking some action on climate change.

Packed train beats cheap plane to Copenhagen

Imagine standing packed inside a commuter train with a thousand other people, some in dire need of a shower, some apparently having eaten garlic for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Imagine your fingertips clinging to a metal overhead rack as you struggle to stay upright on turns and bumps in the track. And then imagine doing that for hours on end.

GERMANY-RAIL/STRIKESThat’s what the train trip from Berlin to Copenhagen today was like as some 45,000 demonstrators converged on the Danish capital for Saturday’s march. But the journey was still a lot of fun — and we saw a myriad of wind turbines in both northern Germany and southwestern Denmark turning in the breeze, and thousands more roof-top photovoltaic systems extracting what little daylight they could out of the mid-December sky.

Fortunately, most of the people headed to the demonstration were in a fabulous mood. And there was even a happy ending to the ride — for the last two hours of the trip, in Denmark, an extra four carriages were added so just about everyone ended up getting a seat for the final third of the ride from Berlin, via Hamburg and a short ferry-hop.

from The Great Debate UK:

Government intervention key to low-carbon economy

Scientists argue that rich nations must make drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions to prevent dangerous climate change. The way energy is used, priced and created would have to change in order to institute these cuts.

Ahead of elections in Britain, which must be held before June 2010, Dave Timms of Friends of the Earth shared his thoughts with Reuters on what the group thinks the next government needs to do in order to build a low-carbon economy.

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).

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