World Bank President Kim: Time to 'come up with a new plan' for climate finance

World Bank President Jim Kim. Photo by: Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank / CC BY-NC-ND

World Bank President Jim Kim on Thursday outlined plans for a new effort to finance plans to combat climate change and warned that evidence about the impact of global warming was becoming “even more alarming every week.”

Kim was speaking at the opening press briefing of the 2017 World Bank Spring Meetings and took a wide range of questions on issues ranging from the upcoming British snap election to Asian infrastructure projects. But it was climate change — and the role of the President Trump administration — that prompted a stern warning on funding the projects needed to prepare for a warmer world and rising sea levels.

Asked about how the Trump administration’s denial of human-caused climate change and the White House’s refusal to contribute to international action on the issue could weaken the World Bank’s efforts in this area, Kim described — in broad strokes — a new climate financing effort he hopes to bring about. Kim’s comments alluded to his lack of confidence that previous climate finance commitments will actually materialize.

“The $100 billion of grants … that at one point was promised — I don’t see it coming,” Kim said.

“The Green Climate Fund is still at around $7.5 billion after two or three years, and the estimation was that there would be many, many more billions of dollars in that. So we’re using this meeting to bring all of the leaders together to come up with a new plan. We’re going to put on the table a different kind of platform, where all the different groups that are trying to have an impact on climate can work together to put the financing tools together,” he said.

While Kim did not directly criticize the Trump administration’s climate change stance — the U.S. is the World Bank’s largest shareholder — he did assert that the bank must remain an “evidence-based organization.”

“We have no interest in destroying particular industries, but we have to be an evidence-based organization, and I think the evidence is even more alarming every week about the impact of climate change,” he said.

While the U.S. appears poised to roll back federal carbon emissions regulations, Kim highlighted efforts the bank is involved with in six other countries that contribute significant coal-based carbon to the atmosphere — China, India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Pakistan and Vietnam.

“If we can change the incentives and change the way that financing for energy works in those six countries, we could potentially have a huge impact on how much carbon we put in the air. We call this our ‘following the carbon’ initiative,” Kim said.

Asked about recent reports that the U.K. government might rescind its commitment to contributing 0.7 percent of its GDP to foreign aid, Kim warned about the dangerous consequences that could result if rising worldwide aspirations continue to be thwarted by crisis and fragility.

“I think it would be very unfortunate for the U.K. to reduce their commitment,” Kim said. “The 0.7 that has been committed to is critically, critically important, not just for developing countries but for the future of the world.”

Referencing a World Bank study, Kim said that access to the internet increases people’s satisfaction in the short term, but it also raises the income level to which they compare themselves and increases people’s motivations to migrate.

“If those rising aspirations then meet frustration, we are very, very worried about more and more countries going down the path of fragility,” Kim said.

In that light, U.K. citizens should understand their government’s foreign aid contribution differently, he argued.

“People have to think about aid as far more than giveaways. We think about using our resource now as facilitating a process where owners of capital get higher return and developing countries will get an opportunity to grow their economies and create jobs … You need organizations that can facilitate that process. Aid agencies can do that, and DfID specifically has played an extremely important role in doing that,” Kim said.

Kim was asked about his expectations for a summit next month that will focus on the Chinese-led One Belt, One Road initiative, which seeks infrastructural and trade investments across Asia.

“We have a very close working relationship with the Chinese government and also with [the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank]. We’ll be signing another memorandum of understanding during these meetings,” Kim reported.

The bank chief described China’s role in global development as “unprecedented.”

“I think China has been stepping and illustrating that it’s concerned about development, not just in neighboring countries or along the old Silk Road, but globally,” he said.

Kim also noted that the Chinese are “very much in agreement” with the World Bank’s plans to use its resources to crowd in more private sector capital to development projects.

Devex is on the ground at the World Bank Spring Meetings April 18-22. Read our daily coverage and analysis and tune in for our Facebook Live series. Follow @devex, @Sophie_Ed1984 and @AlterIgoe for their live reporting.

About the author

  • Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.