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Developing Countries Get Help to Cope with Climate Change

WASHINGTON, DC, February 28, 2008 (ENS) – Assistance for developing countries to manage water resources, combat drought, and measure climate change will be forthcoming under a new agreement signed today by the World Bank and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department.

The first projects are planned for Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru, while the partners consider more projects in other parts of the world.

The assistance can help establish end-to-end early warning systems, enhance and protect local ecosystems, and realize the benefits of an integrated Earth observing system.


These Colombian children will live
with higher temperatures and
more extreme weather events
than exist today. (Photo by Curt
Carnemark courtesy World Bank)

“This initiative enables us to marry financial resources and technical resources – bringing them together for sustainable development,” said Dr. William Brennan, NOAA’s deputy assistant secretary for international affairs.

“This helps us realize our mutual goals to decrease suffering from natural disasters and bolster economies while sustaining our environment,” Brennan said. “Together these efforts seek to improve livelihoods and reduce global poverty.”

The enormity of many coastal problems requires international alliances and solutions. The partners said their new agreement will allow NOAA scientists and resource managers and the World Bank to more readily assist global communities in building resilience to climate extremes.

“Today’s agreement allows us to work more easily with an important partner in development and to bring the complementary strengths of our two organizations together for this common cause,” Katherine Sierra, World Bank vice president of sustainable development.

The new agreement will serve as an umbrella for future projects like the one NOAA’s National Weather Service is discussing with the city of Medellin, Colombia, to install a reliable flash flood guidance system.

Future projects may include establishing high altitude mountain climate surface observing stations in Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador.

Also under discussion is the possibility of developing water resources and drought management projects in Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru.

Marine environment ecosystem observations in the Caribbean may be expanded to see how climate change affects small fish that live in deep water.

Brennan says the agreement has been developed to reflect NOAA’s variety of technical expertise and to realize the societal benefits of the Global Earth Observation System of Systems, GEOSS, particularly in the Americas.

The poorest people in the world’s poorest countries will need all the technical and financial help they can get to cope with climate change, according to this year’s edition of the World Bank’s annual environmental review, “Environment Matters,” released Wednesday.


The home of this Colombian family
floods every year. (Photo by Scott
Wallace courtesy World Bank)

Due to their geographical location, low incomes, and low institutional capacity, as well as their greater reliance on climate-sensitive sectors like agriculture, the report says that those least responsible for climate change and least able to cope with it will suffer most as global temperatures rise.

This year’s “Environment Matters” focuses on the immediate necessity for developing countries to begin adapting to climate change.

It points out that climate change may bring back water security challenges to countries that for 100 years have enjoyed reliable water supplies and few, if any, water shocks.

In the report, the World Bank’s top climate change and environment experts, and other contributors, give frank assessments of what is currently known, and not known, on key subjects linked to adaptation – climate variability, biodiversity, social dimensions, and water security. They make concrete recommendations for the way forward.

“Climate action is development action,” said Sierra. “We are moving forward aggressively with our client countries to implement adaptive measures that improve the local environment, increase resilience to current and future climate variability and to natural disasters, and foster the dissemination of innovative technologies.”

There is a silver lining to climate change in that dealing with the climate crisis will provide opportunities for countries to revisit current development practices.

The report takes the view that with additional resources, climate change can be a stimulus to assist the transition to improved practices in land management, energy production, and coastal protection, especially in the poorest countries.

“We can’t let climate change turn back the clock of progress for these countries,” said Warren Evans, World Bank director of environment.

The recent replenishment by donor countries saw funding commitments rise by 42 percent to $14 billion per year for the International Development Association, IDA, the part of the World Bank that provides interest-free loans and grants to the world’s poorest countries.

The increase in donor funding was partly in response to the World Bank’s submission that climate change will increase the resources needed to maintain levels of benefits to those countries that depend on it.

The World Bank Group is currently developing a Strategic Framework for Climate Change to be presented to its Development Committee at Annual Meetings in October 2008.

The bank also has expressed its commitment to reducing the carbon footprint of its own operations through the use of energy efficiency measures, renewable energy, and carbon offsets.

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