April 09, 2014

Three-Quarters Of World Bank-Backed Projects Still Don't Evaluate Climate Risks: Report

WASHINGTON -- The World Bank is still failing to take climate change into account as it makes decisions about the projects it finances, according to a new report from the nonprofit World Resources Institute. The impacts of climate change were only taken into consideration in a quarter of all projects the bank approved between January 2012 and June 2013.
World Resources Institute looked at a selection of projects that would reasonably be expected to undergo some sort of climate impact assessment. The World Bank has in recent years put a greater emphasis on climate change under its new president, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, and argued in a landmark 2013 report that climate change "could seriously undermine poverty alleviation in many regions." But as WRI's report finds, 75 percent of projects still include no assessment of climate risks.
For 88 percent of projects, there was no examination of their likely contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. The Bank has been dinged for its continued involvement in projects that support coal-fired power plants, for example.
WRI found that a few of the projects the World Bank invested in would help countries adapt to the impacts of climate change, but said those projects "were the exception rather than the rule."
"The reality is, climate considerations are still something that has yet to make its way into the operational considerations they make," said Clifford Polycarp, deputy director of the sustainable finance program at WRI.
One example included in the report is an emergency infrastructure renewal project that the Bank supported in Cote d’Ivoire that would rehabilitate urban drainage systems and provide flood protections. The WRI report notes that while this seems like an area where future climate impacts should be taken into account, "the project design documents did not include any assessments that could shed light on the project area's vulnerability to climate change."
The report also cites an urban infrastructure project in China's Qingyang municipality that would construct and rehabilitate drainage and sewage systems. Report co-author Milap Patel notes that the appraisal documents for that project "are characterized by a complete lack of attention to climate change and its possible impacts."
Climate change is believed to pose a major risk to already vulnerable populations, and the report warns that the "impacts of climate change could derail countries' progress toward sustainable development."
The report proposes specific actions the Bank could take to improve its assessments of climate risks and other environmental and social concerns. For climate-related risks associated with a given project, the report suggests an assessment of the project's anticipated greenhouse gas emissions, an analysis of ways to cut the project's emissions, and consideration of potential alternatives that would produce lower greenhouse gases, among other steps.
While there is a directive from the head of the World Bank to consider climate change in its projects, Polycarp said that the incentives that drive decision-making at the regional and operational levels still don't prioritize climate. Nevertheless, Polycarp added that under its new climate policy director, Dr. Karin Kemper, the Bank has been starting to put in place new tools and processes for factoring climate into its initiatives.
A World Bank spokesman said that the Bank "welcomes constructive input on the work that we do."
"The WRI report is a useful contribution to our increased efforts to factor in climate change across our project portfolio. In this regard, we are making important progress," said the spokesman, adding that starting in July, the Bank will require all new projects funded by the International Development Association, its division that funds the world's poorest countries, to be screened for short- and long-term climate risks. The Bank is also introducing a greenhouse gas accounting program "that will, within a couple of years, cover all projects in all sectors," said the spokesman.
The WRI's president and CEO, Andrew Steer, joined the nonprofit from the World Bank, where he had served as the Bank's special envoy for climate change from 2010 to 2012. In an introduction to the report, Steer notes that there have been "missed opportunities to address climate impacts."
But he signaled optimism about the Bank's ability to shift. "The World Bank's willingness to adapt and experiment has been its historical strength," wrote Steer. "We are confident it will address the climate challenge with the same innovative spirit."

April 04, 2014

El Nino to coincide with monsoon: India Meteorological Department's Pune arm warns of poor rains

El Nino to coincide with monsoon: India Meteorological Department's Pune arm warns of poor rains 
PUNE: India should brace for a weak monsoon season as El Nino conditions are likely to develop, but before rains dry up, the ongoing wet spell will continue until June, weather scientists have forecast, casting a shadow on the rabi harvest and the planting of summer crops such as paddy 

This is not the official monsoon forecast of India Meteorological Department (IMD), but the outlook prepared by the Pune-based Regional Climate Centre, which is a part of IMD. Forecasters from Australia China, Korea and the US have issued El Nino warnings, but so far the Indian weather office has rubbished the concerns as western propaganda to rattle Indian markets. 

Monsoon outlook is indeed sensitive for the economy and the market. Although the country has sufficient stock of foodgrain, a negative monsoon adversely affects the entire economy. In 2009, when an El Nino severely disrupted monsoon rains, India saw a sudden burst of food inflation, which continued relentlessly for years, forcing the Reserve Bank of India to keep interest rates high despite persistent protests by industry. Weak rainfall in the country in 2009 raised global sugar prices to the highest in decades, and this year the price of the sweetener in India, the world's second-largest producer, is already rising. 

The forecast said weak El Nino conditions, which often disrupt rainfall in India, may develop by the middle of the year, coinciding with the June-September monsoon. "During the season April to June, wetter-than-normal conditions are likely over most parts of India, Afghanistan, north Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. However, during the season May to July, normal to drierthan-normal conditions are likely over most parts of South Asia except extreme north India, adjoining north Pakistan and  north Afghanistan," it said. 

"On the monthly scale, most of the countries of the region are likely to experience normal to wetter-than-normal conditions during the first three months and drier-than-normal conditions in July," it said. 

The Regional Climate Centre has suffixed a caveat to its forecast: "The long range forecasts presented here are currently experimental and are produced using techniques that have not been validated. The content is only for general information and its use is not intended to address particular requirements," it said. 
The Australian Weather Office, widely respected for its forecasts, said the outlook for El Nino had increased. "The El Nino-Southern Oscillation ( ENSO) remains neutral; however, the chance of an El Nino occurring later in 2014 has increased. Climate models indicate the Pacific is likely to warm in coming months, with ocean surface temperatures reaching El Nino thresholds during the southern hemisphere winter," it said in its weekly tropical climate update on Tuesday
North India has seen unusually high winter rainfall in 2014. This has damaged apple and almond orchards and raised concerns about the wheat harvest that gathers momentum in April. IMD's latest forecast says more rains are likely. "Rain/thundershowers would occur at many places over Jammu & Kashmir and at a few places over Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand from (April) 5th onwards," it said. 

Abinash Verma, director-general, Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA), said, "El Nino will not affect Indian sugar production in 2014-15 significantly as most of the sugarcane is in irrigated areas. But if the reservoirs are not filled up then it will impact the sugarcane production in 2015-16 season. However, ISMA would like to watch the rainfall from the retreating monsoon also as it affects the yield and sucrose formation."