Fresh from G8, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim calls for aggressive climate targets

Clare Saxon Ghauri
19 June 2013

LONDON: Arriving straight from the G8 Summit in Northern Ireland, today Dr. Jim Yong Kim, World Bank Group President, presented an alarming new scientific report stressing the urgent need for bolder climate targets and redirecting finances towards low carbon assets in emerging economies, to an audience of financial investors in London.

The new report, Turn Down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts, and the Case for Resilience, examines the implications of 2C and 4C warming on agricultural production, water resources, ecosystems and cities across Africa and South East Asia. It reveals that a warmer planet will keep millions of people trapped in poverty and lead to extreme weather, food shortages and economic crises across the world, but that many of the worst consequences could be avoided by more aggressive climate mitigation targets that would hold warming below 2C.

Dr. Jim Yong Kim, World Bank Group President spoke at the Thomson Reuters headquarters in London this morning to present the report. He declared, “a 4 degree world must be avoided at all costs. The successes or failures of climate change will define our generation”, and listed examples of low carbon investment and policies -- such as building more climate resilient communities, putting a price on carbon and driving renewable energy and energy efficiency investment -- that he believes will help achieve the target.

World leaders

In the context of his participation in the G8 world forum, Kim was asked for his thoughts on the attending developed countries' climate efforts, to which he complimented President Obama, saying “there is a lot of hope that the US is stepping forward.” He also welcomed the ‘new spirit’ in China, where a carbon trading scheme was launched in Shenzhen yesterday and looks set to drive a national carbon market.

When asked how to get the public to respond to the seemingly long-term and negative climate challenge -- especially in the face of the economic downturn -- Kim said that while there are political barriers, there is also “much opportunity to move to renewable energy and cleaner cities”, pointing to New York City as a leading example. Kim highlighted Mayor Bloomberg’s aim to reduce the city’s carbon footprint 30% by 2030, which the city is now well on track to reach by 2017.

Kim also explained how the World Bank showcases African countries to investors by explaining the good returns to be made, as well as the benefits to communities that low carbon investment would bring, despite the apparent ‘risks’. Kim says he responds to hesitations with: “don’t paint with too broad a brush” with regards to the very different markets of emerging economies.

Global climate talks

Answering a question from the audience around the UN climate process and rethinking China’s ‘developing’ status owing to its economic growth, Kim said: “Whatever we call the country, China has a huge sense of urgency and very aggressive climate targets. It moves more quickly and efficiently than any other government.” He also said that the carbon price in China is a good sign towards achieving a global agreement, as it shows market mechanisms are working. He added: “Most companies already have a carbon price built into their future projections, we just need political solutions.”

On the 2015 target, Kim said: “It’s no question that we must still support the UN process, as we simply must have a global agreement. However, the 2020 target is separate from action that could be taken now. Don’t use the lack of a global agreement as an excuse not to take clear actions towards building a cleaner planet.” He concluded by demanding: "We have got to find a way to drive growth -- that is green."

The sobering report was prepared for the World Bank by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics. Partly in response to the report findings, the World Bank is now increasing its climate mitigation, adaptation and disaster risk management work.

Read: Turn Down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts, and the Case for Resilience

Our related reports:

Leadership for a Clean Revolution

Post-COP18 briefing

Shaping China’s Climate Finance Policy

Consensus and Cooperation for a Clean Revolution: China and global sustainable development

By Clare Saxon

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