November 17, 2011
The World Bank says tough decisions lie ahead at the upcoming U.N. Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa. A top bank official says nations need to decide on a long-term strategy.
Andrew Steer, the World Bank's Special Envoy on Climate Change, says there are two big issues that will dominate the conference, known as COP 17. The first is what to do after the Kyoto Protocol expires next year. The protocol is linked to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change that sets targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Steer said, "The stakes are high. This is a decade when action is absolutely central and yet it's also a decade in which obviously the economic conditions are not conducive to breakthrough, if you like."
It's not clear what will follow the Kyoto Protocol.
"But what really does matter," he said, "is that Durban agrees on a process by which countries in the near future sit down and ask themselves: Are we doing enough?"
The second major issue is funding. How do you pay for climate change projects when countries are cutting spending in response to the global economic crisis?
More than 130 countries have now asked the World Bank for help in dealing with climate change.
"Climate change is already threatening development progress. Already today, we're seeing the impacts of climate change in several of our client countries," he said.
Steer said agriculture is the area most threatened by climate change, with the potential to dramatically reduce yields. At the same time, agriculture is one of the biggest contributors to rising temperatures.
"If you add the direct greenhouse gases from agriculture, which account for about 14 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions – if you add to that the impact of agriculture on deforestation, probably over 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions are due to agriculture," he said
The World Bank special envoy said South Africa and the African Union hope to make the climate conference Africa centric.
"It would mean that the psychology of Africa towards climate change could be changed with regard, for example, to energy access. Sixty-five percent of African households don't have access to electricity. Most people might think: Well, climate change would surely slow down those 65 percent getting electricity. Our view and I think the view of the host is that actually climate change needs to accelerate those people getting electricity in their houses. Why? Because if they don't get electricity it'll be even worse," he said.
Steer also said Africa is only using 10 percent of its potential for hydro power. He adds the continent has a huge potential in renewable energy resources.
The U.N. Climate Change Conference runs from November 29th through December 9th.