World Bank wants to tackle climate change — but does project design measure up?

An industrial park borders farmland where cattle graze in South Africa. The World Bank wants to do more to address global climate change in its projects. Photo by: John Hogg / World Bank / CC BY-NC-ND

The World Bank is undertaking a number of changes to try to better address climate change in its operations, including tools to address climate risks and resilience in projects, more systematic accounting of greenhouse gas emissions from projects, and ongoing organizational efforts to incentivize staff to include climate change concerns in project design.

All these efforts come as World Bank President Jim Kim has ramped up rhetoric about the institution’s role in addressing global climate change — but the reality is that bank operations have fallen short of meeting that goal.

Only 25 percent of projects consider the risks posed by climate change in their design, and even fewer take into account the impact of greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new report by the World Resources Institute released on Wednesday.

The report — which looked at projects approved by the World Bank’s board of directors over 18 months between July 2012 and January 2014 — examined how how the institution performed on including sustainability in project design. It found that not only were projects not looking at opportunities for climate change mitigation, they were not even addressing risks posed by climate change to programs.

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About the author

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    Paul Stephens

    Paul Stephens is a Devex staff writer based in Washington, D.C. His coverage focuses on Latin America and World Bank affairs, as well as Washington's global development scene. As a multimedia journalist, editor and producer, Paul has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Washington Monthly, CBS Evening News, GlobalPost and the United Nations magazine, among other outlets. He's won a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting for a 5-month, in-depth reporting project in Yemen after two stints in Georgia - one as a Peace Corps volunteer and another as a communications coordinator for the U.S. Agency for International Development.