An independent evaluation group
recently reported that while the World Bank has been a vocal supporter of environmentally sustainable practices, it has not followed through on those pledges.
The report, Environmental Sustainability: An Evaluation of World Bank Group Support
, states that “addressing environmental degradation and ensuring environmental sustainability are inextricably linked to the World Bank Group’s mandate to reduce poverty and improve people’s lives.” It urges greater coordination between the World Bank, IFC, and MIGA, as well as with external partners, and calls for improving assessments of the environmental impacts of World Bank interventions.
“It is clear now from the Amazon to India that if environmental sustainability is not raised as a priority, then all bets are off,” Vinod Thomas, the director general of the Independent Evaluation Group, told the New York Times. When pressed about the related issue of preventing the impact of natural disasters, Thomas told Revkin, “Even where disasters recur, the preventive side gets neglected, for political reasons. Reconstruction gets photos.”
At the Wilson Center launch of the new book Greening Aid, former World Bank advisor Robert Goodland said that “The World Bank Group…is de-greening itself,” criticizing a new Bank project:
The project manufactures cheeses in India, flies them to Japan to supply Pizza Hut. Project appraisal omitted any assessment of greenhouse gas emissions or climate risks; accountability is zero, in terms of respecting local religious taboos on holy cows. In this project the World Bank promotes the interests of the well-to-do, flying food away from those who need more to those that don’t. Despite soaring claims of fighting the global food crisis and climate change, the bank makes cows fly.
The authors of Greening Aid?: Understanding the Environmental Impact of Development Assistance found that absolute levels of dirty aid have remained relatively constant, while absolute levels of environmental aid have risen dramatically. But despite its absolute rise over the past several decades, environmental aid remains just 10 percent of total aid because neutral aid has increased significantly. Bilateral donors have greened the most, “a bit of a surprise,” said coauthor J. Timmons Roberts, given that so much emphasis has been placed on improving the practices of multilateral donors like the World Bank. The five bilateral donors with the highest per capita environmental aid from 1995-1999 were Denmark, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, and Japan.
As Revkin asked in his blog dotEarth, “As the world heads toward nine billion people, with most population growth in the poorest places, how can prosperity be spurred — by lenders or in other ways — without erasing the planet’s natural assets?”
Note: ECSP interns Sonia Schmanski and Daniel Gleick contributed to this post.