World Bank to insist projects it funds include steps to curb air pollution

Planned 'aggressive action' will see funding for projects tied to efforts to curb air pollution

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 September, 2013, 4:44am

The World Bank is planning "aggressive action" to help developing nations cut emissions of soot and other air pollutants blamed for causing climate change, in a shift also meant to protect human health and aid crop growth.

Of its funding to poor nations, almost 8 per cent - US$18 billion from 2007-12 - goes to sectors such as energy, farming, waste and transport that have a potential to cut emissions, a bank report said.

The bank said it would shift policy to insist that such projects in future included a component to curb air pollution.

"We will try to turn it [the funding] into aggressive action" to cut the pollutants, Rachel Kyte, vice-president of sustainable development at the World Bank, said on the sidelines of a meeting of a 38-nation group in Oslo looking at ways to cut pollution.

"Anything that delays the pace at which global warming is arriving buys time for our clients, the poor countries in the world," Kyte said.

The bank would look for new ways to help, such as reducing pollution from public transport, curbing methane emissions from rice irrigation, and improving the efficiency of high-polluting cooking stoves and brick kilns.

Soot comes from sources ranging from wood-burning cooking stoves to diesel engines. Methane comes from decomposition of plant and animal matter and from farming.

Environment ministers at the meeting in Oslo of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, set up 18 months ago in Washington as a new front in combating climate change, also outlined projects to cut air pollution in areas from forestry to gas flaring.

The focus on short-lived air pollutants is meant to complement efforts to cut carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas.

Members of the coalition said that cutting the short-term pollutants could reduce global warming by up to about 0.5 degree Celsius by 2040-50. That would help achieve a goal, set by almost 200 nations in 2010, of limiting a rise in global temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times to avoid more heatwaves, floods, droughts and rising sea levels.

And cutting short-lived pollutants would also protect human health, with six million people worldwide dying early every year from air pollution, it said.

"First aid for the climate can also be first aid for people's health," Norwegian Environment Minister Baard Vegar Soljhell said.

Reducing pollutants "can also help rural economies, with current estimates showing the potential to save about 50 million tonnes of crops each year", the statement said.