World Bank calls on leaders to make “sacrifices” in climate fight

Group President Jim Kim says 1.5C warming could already be locked into Earth’s system, calls on governments to act fast

Global supplies of staple foodstuffs could be severely affected by warming above 2C, says the World Bank (Pic: UAC)

Global supplies of staple foodstuffs could be severely affected by warming above 2C, says the World Bank (Pic: UAC)

By Ed King

Countries must be prepared to make short term sacrifices in order to successfully address the threat posed by climate change, World Bank president Jim Kim has warned.

With under a week to go before the next round of UN climate negotiations start in Peru, Kim said the window to tackle rising levels of carbon emissions is closing.

“Global leaders will need to take difficult decisions that will require, in some instances, short term sacrifice but ultimately lead to long term gains for all,” he said.

There is “growing evidence” that warming close to 1.5C is already locked into the Earth’s atmospheric system, threatening the future of low lying states at risk from sea level rise, he added.

Kim’s comments came on the day the bank launched its third annual “Turn Down The Heat” report, this year focusing on the consequences of warming beyond 2C in the Middle East, Latin America and Europe.

Compiled by scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics, it said weather patters regarded as extreme today could become the “new climate normal.”

“Under current policies there is about a 40 percent chance of exceeding 4C by 2100 and a 10 percent chance of exceeding 5C,” said the report.

Possible consequences of a temperature rise of 2C by 2050 include a 70% drop in Brazil’s soybean crop, and a 50% fall in its wheat crop.

Migration and conflicts over water could exacerbate an already delicate security situation in the Middle East.

And in the Balkans, maize, wheat, grapes and vegetable production could plummet by 50%.

Momentum

Kim did not specify what “sacrifices” countries would have to make in the short term, but leaders are being encouraged to scrap often popular fossil fuel subsidies which create an artificially low price for oil, gas and coal.

A major economic study backed by nine governments and published earlier this year concluded that between 50-90% of carbon cuts could be achieved while boosting economic growth, but acknowledged there would be additional costs in terms of clean energy investments.

In the past 12 months the bank has already announced it will not fund any new coal plants unless there is a compelling development case.

Kim said the bank would use its power to try and slow greenhouse gas emissions, indicating it would “bring forward new financial instruments” to incentivise green growth.

But he said it could not do it alone, and called on governments to accelerate efforts to move away from fossil fuel use.

“World leaders and policy makers should embrace affordable solutions like carbon pricing and policy choices that shift investment to clean public transport, cleaner energy and more energy efficient factories, buildings and appliances,” he said.

UN officials hope the Peru round of international talks will deliver a draft text for a global deal, which they hope will be signed off in Paris next year.

A recent pact between the US and China to jointly curb carbon emissions, along within $9.3billion pledged to a UN Green Fund has raised hopes of a breakthrough.

But Kim’s special envoy on climate change Rachel Kyte said progress was still too slow.

“Leaders must step up and take the necessary decisions on how we manage our economies towards clean growth and resilient development,” she said.

“Urgent and substantial technological, economic, institutional and behavioral change is needed to reverse present trends… We need the political will to make this happen.”

Read more on: Climate Politics | UN climate talks | |