If each of the 40 million SUVs in the United States was switched to a car with EU fuel efficiency standards (45 mpg), annual CO2 emissions would be reduced by 142 million tons. In comparison, the resulting emissions from providing electricity to the 1.6 billion people who today live without it would be 160 million tons of CO2. In other words, if 40 million Americans switched their SUVs to more efficient vehicles, and 1.6 billion more people gained access to electricity, the net impact on the climate would be just about zero.

This simple tradeoff is illustrated in the World Development Report released by the World Bank on Monday. The massive document is both a compendium of scientific, economic, and social research related to climate change and an urgent call for a climate deal in Copenhagen. It is clear that the World Bank has taken notice of the many linkages between climate change, human well-being, and economic development (see Climate Connections from State of the World 2009), and details why and how these could be included in a successful Copenhagen treaty.

The moral implications of sealing a deal are heavily emphasized in the report. Consider this statistic: “Developing countries face 75-80 percent of the potential damage from climate change” and yet high-income countries contribute two thirds of anthropogenic greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. The report calls for such injustice to be met with steep financing from developed countries for technology development and climate change mitigation and adaptation.

The World Bank's annual report emphasizes equity and behavior change

The World Bank's annual report emphasizes equity and behavior change

In order to keep the climate on a 2ºC warming trajectory, estimates for developing country needs range from $28 to $100 billion annually for adaptation and $139 to $175 billion annually for mitigation.  Current annual funding for mitigation and adaptation together total only $9 billion. Furthermore,

Research and Development investments [for clean technologies] on the order of $100 – $700 billion annually will be needed—a major increase from the modest $13 billion a year of public funds and $40 billion to $60 billion a year of private funds currently invested.

The report calls for these funding commitments to begin at Copenhagen.

It also outlines the basic structure of an agreement in which all countries make binding commitments at Copenhagen. Developed countries take on greenhouse gas reduction targets and developing countries adopt “policy targets”:

A policy based track can…offer a good framework for countries with a high share of hard-to-measure emissions from land use, land use change, and forestry [and] it is less likely to require monitoring of complete flows – a challenge for many countries.

Finally, a significant portion of the report is dedicated to imagining the behavior changes that could contribute to a safe landing for the climate. With an entire chapter dedicated to the topic, the World Bank lends is voice to the growing number of climate activists who acknowledge the importance of non-market policies and interventions (see our project on Transforming Cultures, the theme of State of the World 2010). These range from public education programs for changing “community perceptions of risk” to establishing government coordinating agencies for “improved use of scientific information in policy making.”

The World Bank has produced a World Development Report every year since 1978, each version focused on a specific aspect of development. The official report is set for release late this month.

Striking images from the Overview Section

(Permission to post these images was granted by the World bank)


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Climate Change, climate justice, Copenhagen, developing countries, development, equity, finance, SOW09, State of the World, Transforming Cultures