Jim Kim sets sights on private sector financing for 2015 global climate deal

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim at the third International Corruption Hunters Alliance conference. Photo by: Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank / CC-BY-NC-ND 

Robust financing for climate-friendly policies and projects is “the critical component” of a 2015 global climate deal expected to come out at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris, according to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim.

But the bank, he warned, will not come even close to footing the entire bill.

In a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C. on Monday, Kim emphasized that the World Bank is “not straddling the fence anymore” when it comes to climate change.

“Today I’m sending a signal of my own,” he said. “As head of the World Bank, I’ll drive our institution and all of its capabilities — financial, technical and human, to support this development transition that we must support together toward the goal of preserving our planet for all future generations.”

But the the world’s largest international financial institution doesn’t have nearly enough money on its own to finance the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s stated goal of zero net emissions by 2100. And some world leaders feel donors such as the bank have little influence at all in the climate change agenda.

Kim admits the bank is a small player in the game, and underscored that “economic policy is the key to mobilize a coordinated global response to climate change,” but noted that leading up to Paris 2015, his institution is focusing heavily on leveraging funds from the private sector as a way to expand its impact.

“We realize that the World Bank has a lot of skill that others don’t have,” Kim said, adding that the World Bank can offer expertise and an initial investment to jump-start renewable energy infrastructure projects and then through new bank programs such as its Global Infrastructure Facility “crowd in other investors” from the private sector.

“I think that’s the wave of the future,” said Kim.

2015 promises to be a big year for questions about financing, not just for climate change adaptation and mitigation, but for a broader global development agenda.

Kim noted that he and other global leaders are giving much more attention to financing the sustainable development goals than was given to their predecessor Millennium Development Goals, adding that the MDGs focused on critical issues without establishing a strong financial plan.

“So what we’re doing now is working intensively so that we can put together a plan to fund the sustainable development goals,” said Kim. “Now we’ve got ...17 goals, 169 targets, we’ve got so many things on the table that we’re going to have to be much more creative. And private sector financing is going to be a huge part of it going forward.”

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    Jeff Tyson

    Jeff is a global development reporter for Devex. Based in Washington, DC, he covers multilateral affairs, U.S. aid and international development trends. He has worked with human rights organizations in both Senegal and the United States, and prior to joining Devex worked as a production assistant at National Public Radio. He holds a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in international relations and French from the University of Rochester.