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article imageWorld Bank introduces program that lists ecosystems as assets

By Stephanie Dearing     Nov 1, 2010 in Environment
During the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, which concluded at the end of October, the World Bank announced two linked initiatives that aim to protect ecosystems and species at risk of extinction.
The World Bank has a lingering reputation for its past disregard for the environment, but the agency has been working to overcome the negative name it garnered for itself. Even though the organization has implemented a number of environmentally friendly initiatives, some organizations say the Bank has a long way to go. One issue that generates criticism of the Bank is the funding provided to developing nations to build coal-powered electrical generating plants. At least one key World Bank employee has a similar opinion. Earlier this year, The Times of India reported that an employee with the World Bank executive has urged the agency to end the funding of coal-powered plants.
Two initiatives the World Bank has adopted might go a long way towards mitigating criticism of the organization. The key initiative, announced October 28th will see ecosystems valued in the national accounting systems of participating developing nations. The Bank said integrating "... the practice of ecosystem valuation into national accounts at scale" would not only result in "...better management of natural environments," but would ensure this management would become “business as usual.”
World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick announced the initiative at the Convention on Biodiversity Diversity meeting in Japan, saying "The natural wealth of nations should be a capital asset valued in combination with its financial capital, manufactured capital, and human capital. National accounts need to reflect the vital carbon storage services that forests provide and the coastal protection values that come from coral reefs and mangroves.
Through this new partnership, we plan to pilot ways to integrate ecosystem valuation into national accounts and then scale up what works to countries around the world.”
The initiative will soon start with a pilot project, that is slated to take place over a five year period, and will include six to ten nations, along with other partners identified by the World Bank as being "... developed and developing countries, international organizations such as UNEP and conservation and development non-governmental organizations as well as the global organization for legislators, GLOBE International." Immediately named nation partners include India and Columbia.
During the pilot, the initiative aims to:
" Demonstrate how countries can quantify the value of ecosystems and their services in terms of income and asset value
 Develop ways to incorporate these values into planning and design of specific policies linking wealth and economic growth
 Develop guidelines for the practical implementation of ecosystem valuation that can be applied around the world."
The second initiative also announced on October 28th sees the World Bank partnering up with the Global Environment Facility and IUCN, and together, the three organizations have pooled together over $10 million for the initiative called Save Our Species (SOS).
The alliance will see grants issued to save species, and at the time of the announcement, the World Bank said some projects had already been chosen to receive grants. "A few grants have already been selected during the preparation phase, covering more than 30 species, for example to help recover populations of the Critically Endangered Saiga antelope following the death of nearly 12,000 Saiga in western Kazakhstan last May or the Critically Endangered Chinese Giant Salamander. Thanks to SOS funding, a new amphibian species, belonging to highly threatened group, was discovered recently in Colombia - the Chocó harlequin toad."
Christian Aid has been one organization pointing to the World Bank's record of spending on coal powered plants, saying in a press release issued in September that the Bank was trying to control the funds pledged to developing nations for climate change assistance. Christian Aid made those public comments after the Bank Information Center released spending figures for the World Bank's energy projects. According to that analysis, the World Bank doled out $4.4 billion for coal-based energy projects, and a further 6.286 billion for fossil-fuel based energy projects.
Speaking for Christian Aid, Dr. Alison Doig said "This new analysis reveals incoherence at the heart of the World Bank’s thinking about energy. At the same time as it is seeking to gain control of the billions which will be channelled to developing countries to help them cope with global warming, the Bank is still lending staggeringly large and growing sums to finance coal-fired power.
Yet we know that coal is the dirtiest of all the fossil fuels – the one which most exacerbates the climate crisis which is having devastating effects on the lives of people living in poverty. We also know that by financing the building of coal power stations, the Bank is locking countries in to coal use for the next 40 to 50 years."
There are others who argue the World Bank is instrumental in seeing green initiatives in developing nations get off the ground. Terra Viva Grants is one such organization. The organization states World Bank "... programs in environment and natural resources management (ENRM) are funded in partnership with UN agencies, aid-giving bilateral donors, international conservation NGOs, and others.
The Bank is an implementing agency of the Global Environment Facility, the Multilateral Fund for the Montreal Protocol, and the Convention to Combat Desertification. Additionally, the Bank is a primary funder of projects to support the Biodiversity Convention, and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).
The Bank’s strategy to address global warming includes efforts in adaptation, mitigation, and capacity building. The Bank funds projects in carbon finance, renewable energy, energy conservation and efficiency, technologies for carbon capture and storage, and financing for the development of clean energy. Many efforts are cross-cutting among agriculture, forestry, transport, extractive industries, urban development, and other sectors."
The World Bank provides funding and technical assistance to developing countries with the goal of fighting poverty.
More about World bank, Biodiversity, Valuing ecosystems, Ecosystems, Christian aid
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