As 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.
"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.