Tag Archives: World Bank

Participatory Scenario Development Approaches

Participatory scenario development is a process that involves the participation of stakeholders to explore the future in a creative and policy-relevant way. For an example see the 2008 paper Making Investments in Dryland Development Work: Participatory Scenario Planning in the Makanya Catchment, Tanzania, which Elin Enfors wrote with me and two other colleagues.

Two recent reports present lessons learned from the World Bank’ Economics of Adaptation to Climate Change project use of participatory scenarios.  Such reports are important as the tools and techniques that people need to use are difficult to adequately describe in papers, and have too narrow audience to be worthwhile to describe in books.  The reports are freely downloadable from the World Bank.

Approaches for Identifying Pro-Poor Adaptation Options (PDF, 3.7 MB).  By Livia Bizikova, Samantha Boardley, and Simon Mead

The first report presents lessons learned from the application of participatory scenario-based tools within the World Bank’ Economics of Adaptation to Climate Change project. The authors illustrate how such tools provide opportunities to increase the usability of information on climate change impacts when developing adaptation responses and explore linkages between development, projected climate change and relevant adaptation responses.

Pro-Poor Adaptation: Capacity Development Manual (PDF, 4.0 MB) By ESSA Technologies Ltd and International Institute of Sustainable Development (IISD)

The second report is based on the experiences of the authors in designing, developing and delivering participatory scenario workshops as part of World Bank’ Economics of Adaptation to Climate Change project.  It focuses on providing ‘how to’ information for people to apply participatory scenario approaches.

Persepctives on Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in Nagoya

Eight perspectives on the recent Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in Nagoya.

1. Environmental economist Charles Perrings interviewed by Earth and Sky on his recent Science article 20 Biodiversity targets for 2020:

Charles Perrings: The rate of species decline is increasing, not reducing. And it’s across the board. It’s not just the charismatic megafauna [large animals] that attract the most attention – but a range of species extending across the board.

The new targets follow the acronym ‘SMART’ – meaning, specific, measurable, ambitious, realistic, and time-bound.

Charles Perrings: We’re arguing that it’s important that they not only be SMART but they also be relevant. The targets need to speak to the real interests people have got in ecosystem services and the biodiversity that’s needed to support these services. The targets need to recognize trade-offs between interests.

For example, Perrings said, one of the targets states, “Areas under agriculture, aquaculture, and forestry are managed sustainably, ensuring conservation of biodiversity.” He pointed out that the primary interests of food production and forestry are to feed and shelter people. Those basic human needs will likely overshadow the intent of conserving biodiversity.

Charles Perrings: It’s important to acknowledge that no matter how efficient we make agriculture, it’s almost certain that an expanding human population is going to involve further loss of habitat for other species. We claim that the trade-off should be addressed directly.

He said that in contrast to the 2010 target, it’s important that 2020’s targets are achievable, and that they go along with a set of indicators that can measure the progress towards success. But due to the trade offs, Perrings writes in the paper, “It may not be possible to meet all of the 2020 targets.”

2. Outcomes of the Nagoya meeting  (non-final version from CBD)

The documents provided below are advanced unedited texts reflecting the decisions as adopted on the basis of the documents presented to Plenary (the “L.” document available as in-session documents) and any amendments made during the closing Plenary session. They have not been formally edited. The final official versions of the decisions will be issued as part of the report of the meeting in due course. Statements made by Parties at the time of the adoption of the decision will also be included in the report.

3. Science Insider quotes our colleague Thomas Elmqvist and reports:

…the strategic plan sets 20 specific targets to achieve by 2020. Key targets include conserving in protected zones at least 17% of the world’s terrestrial and inland water areas and 10% of coastal and marine areas, halving the rate of loss of all natural habitats, including forests, and preventing the extinction of known threatened species.

Other targets call for eliminating subsidies harmful to biodiversity, managing fisheries sustainably, and minimizing anthropogenic pressures on coral reefs.

… Negotiators also agreed to increase funding to support the efforts of the strategic plan, though specific targets for percentages or amounts are to be worked out by the time of the COP 11 meeting, scheduled for 2012 in New Delhi, India.The third key agreement is a new protocol to ensure that benefits flow back to countries and indigenous peoples who supply genetic resources that are commercialized. Developing countries had wanted the provisions of the access and benefit-sharing protocol to apply retroactively. They had also hoped for the agreement to specifically assign responsibility for tracking the use of genetic materials to patent offices, research universities, scientific journals, and other “checkpoints.” Retroactivity was stripped from the final text, though the agreement now calls for the investigation of a “global multilateral benefit-sharing mechanism” to address cases where plant or animal resources were commercialized prior to the new agreement. And how to enforce compliance will be left up to each country. “It is not the text we would write ourselves, but it is a good compromise,” says Paulino Franco de Carvalho, head of the Brazilian delegation.

Among other business, delegates agreed to call for a moratorium on geoengineering schemes and to endorse a request to the United Nations General Assembly to create an Intergovernmental Science-policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services that would produce scientific assessments on biodiversity issues much as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change works on the science of climate change. “We’re quite excited about this, it’s really needed,” says Thomas Elmqvist, an ecologist at Stockholm University and a member of the Swedish delegation.

4. Reflection on Nagoya from CGIAR in  Biodiversity International welcomes Nagoya Protocol

Emile Frison, Director General of Biodiversity International, which has represented the Consortium of international agricultural research centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) in all the negotiations leading up to the adoption of the Nagoya Protocol, was jubilant.

“The Protocol addresses issues that have pitted countries of the North and South against one other for decades. Its adoption should act as a balm on old wounds. It will help to create transparency and trust between countries, and trust is absolutely essential for countries to cooperate in using genetic resources in ways that promote food security and economic development.”

The adoption of the Nagoya Protocol  has ended six years of hard-scrabble negotiating. At issue were the conditions under which countries will provide access to genetic resources within their boundaries, the kinds of benefits that should be shared when those resources are used, and how far countries will cooperate with one another when there are allegations of illegal uses.

5. From IUCN:

“We’ve seen history in the making here in Nagoya with a landmark agreement now in place that defines the future for life on earth,” says Julia Marton-Lefèvre, IUCN Director General. “Here in Japan the international community have moved closer to the realisation that it’s time we stopped considering nature as expendable, and any related expenditure a write-off – it’s time we valued and conserved nature.”

The stakes have been high at the Nagoya conference. The latest IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, released two days ago, showed that nature’s very backbone is at risk – with a third of species assessed seriously threatened and many among them facing the risk of extinction. The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity study, known as TEEB, warns us that many of the benefits of nature that we have been taking for granted and enjoyed for free up until now are at risk of running out. The Global Biodiversity Outlook 3 showed that we are on the verge of catastrophic and irreversible tipping points.

“What we’ve decided at this meeting will change the future of life on Earth – and many solutions are available to us,” says Jane Smart, Director of IUCN’s Biodiversity Conservation Group. “We know that targeted conservation action works. Results from the latest Red List show us that the status of biodiversity would have declined by an additional 20 percent at least, if conservation action had not been taken.”

6. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) welcomes:

the adoption of an international agreement that aims to halve the dramatic loss of ecosystems and species by 2020, and to establish ground rules for sharing and accessing the world’s genetic resources.

… Sustainable management of biodiversity and ecosystem services is essential to achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and to combating poverty.

UNDP is committed to scale up its biodiversity work to help meet the Aichi Targets and to assist countries with improving management of their ecosystems.

Billions of people depend on natural ecosystems for their water supply as well as for food, medicines and other essentials.

7. The World Bank Launches Scheme To Green Government Accounts promotes ‘green’ national accounts:

The five-year pilot project backed by India, Mexico and other nations aims to embed nature into national accounts to draw in the full benefits of services such as coastal protection from mangroves or watersheds for rivers that feed cities and crops.

…”For economic ministries in particular, it’s important to have an accounting measure that they can use to evaluate not only the economic value but the natural wealth of nations,” Zoellick told Reuters in an interview.

8. And to conclude IISD’s Linkages which reports on global environmental negotiations, provides a summary of the conclusion of the Nagoya meeting:

The adoption of the package, in particular the Nagoya Protocol on ABS, was rightfully celebrated as a major success in the history of the CBD. And in this light, fears of “another Copenhagen,” popularized by the media, seem both overblown and inadequate. Aside from the package, COP 10 adopted more than 40 other decisions, including unprecedented developments on new complex issues such as geo-engineering and synthetic biology. Not all other decisions lived up to expectations, but taken together, they represent a significant step forward in multilateral cooperation on biodiversity. The CBD’s approach to implementation based on the ecosystem approach, and its mechanism for addressing new and emerging issues would have allowed work on implementation of the Convention to continue whether or not the package had been adopted. In contrast to the climate change regime, where key activities on implementation, such as the carbon market, depend on adopting a global deal on mitigation, the CBD’s agenda is being advanced through a multi-facetted system of work programmes, collaborations and partnerships across the environmental-policy board. So, even if COP 10 had failed to adopt “the package,” the remaining decisions would have allowed work on implementation of the Convention to continue.

A number of developments indicate that the CBD is in the middle of an important transformation process, towards an approach that integrates biodiversity concerns into all areas of human activity. The Strategic Plan and activities such as the TEEB study can give an important impulse to accelerate this transition. With the adoption of the ABS Protocol, it can be expected that future COPs will devote more attention to repositioning the CBD as the key international instrument to further efforts towards “life in harmony with biodiversity.” COP 10 has been a necessary and important step in that direction, not least because it showed that “Copenhagen” was a phenomenon specific to the politics of global climate change cooperation, rather than a crisis of the UN System and of global environmental multilateralism as a whole.

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Short Links: Networks, Amazonian historical ecology, and development data

Two recent papers and comments + a new data site:

1) Tom Fiddaman on a new Nature paper (doi:10.1038/nature08932) from Eugene Stanley‘s lab on cascading failure in connected networks, that shows that feedbacks between connected networks can destabilize two stable networks.

2) Wired news article Lost Tribes Used Clever Tricks to Turn Amazon Wasteland to Farms by Brandon Keim, who is writing a book on ecological tipping points,describes recent research on  newly discovered remains on novel agricultural systems in the coastal Amazon.  Its based on a paper by  Doyle McKey and others in PNAS -  Pre-Columbian agricultural landscapes, ecosystem engineers, and self-organized patchiness in Amazonia (doi:10.1073/pnas.0908925107.  The paper is really cool, combing an exploration of ecological memory with historical ecology. From  the abstract:

… we show that pre-Columbian farmers of the Guianas coast constructed large raised-field complexes, growing on them crops including maize, manioc, and squash. Farmers created physical and biogeochemical heterogeneity in flat, marshy environments by constructing raised fields. When these fields were later abandoned, the mosaic of well-drained islands in the flooded matrix set in motion self-organizing processes driven by ecosystem engineers (ants, termites, earthworms, and woody plants) that occur preferentially on abandoned raised fields. Today, feedbacks generated by these ecosystem engineers maintain the human-initiated concentration of resources in these structures. Engineer organisms transport materials to abandoned raised fields and modify the structure and composition of their soils, reducing erodibility. The profound alteration of ecosystem functioning in these landscapes coconstructed by humans and nature has important implications for understanding Amazonian history and biodiversity. Furthermore, these landscapes show how sustainability of food-production systems can be enhanced by engineering into them fallows that maintain ecosystem services and biodiversity. Like anthropogenic dark earths in forested Amazonia, these self-organizing ecosystems illustrate the ecological complexity of the legacy of pre-Columbian land use.

3) The World Bank has launched a new web site: data.worldbank.org to provide free access to development data. Their data catalog provides access to over 2,000 indicators from World Bank data.

Are ecosystem service trade-offs relatively common?

A recent paper by Heather Tallis et al. reports the finding that win-win conservation projects — those that aim to achieve both conservation objectives and economic gains — are relatively rare. In this paper (Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2008 Jul 15 105(28):9457-64), the authors examine World Bank projects with dual objectives of alleviating poverty and protecting biodiversity and find that only 16% made major progress on both objectives.

These results suggest that trade-offs among ecosystem services may be more common than previously thought. (Fairly interesting since other studies have shown that win-wins are common;however, those studies have generally not considered agriculture/food to be an ecosystem service. Since agriculture is one of the key services that has trade-offs with conservation, it is an important one to consider when assessing the conservation potential in an area.)

Nevertheless, the authors point out that there are strategies for improving management of ecosystem services and human well-being. These include better monitoring of conservation projects’ effects on ecosystem services and human well-being and also improving monitoring of multiple ecosystem services, including the flow of services from one region to another and the effects of markets on provision of ecosystem services.

Improve Devlopment Lending to Build Resilience

Andrew Revkin writes in the New York Times about a recent world bank report that finds that the world bank is not lending in ways that invest in natural capital or resilience (The report is online at worldbank.org/oed). However, there is increasing awareness that that is a big problem.  Revkin writes that the report states that:

it was vital for the bank and its partners to intensify their focus on measurable environmental protection, given rising vulnerability to environmental risks and the increasing flow of financing for projects related to climate change.

“They need to begin to see the inextricable link between sustaining environment and reducing poverty,” Vinod Thomas, the director-general of the evaluation group, said in an interview. “It is clear now from the Amazon to India that if environmental sustainability is not raised as a priority then all bets are off.”

… Cheryl Gray, the director of the review group for the World Bank, said the lack of consistent internal tracking of the environmental facets of projects was an indicator of how much work needs to be done.

The World Bank Group approved its first set of common environmental standards in 2001, for the first time making environmental stewardship part of its core mission of reducing poverty.

But the new evaluation found a persistent lack of environmental focus in each step along the lending chain — from the priorities that shape development projects to the environmental standards and monitoring required in the field.

Revkin also asked the report’s authors about World Bank’s lack of investment to reduce or mitigate disaster damage. On Dot Earth Revkin quotes

Vinod Thomas, the director-general of the World Bank Group’s independent evaluation group, said a recent report on the Bank’s work on disasters found the same problem. “The bank has done well on the reconstruction side,” he told me. “But even where disasters recur, the preventive side gets neglected, for political reasons. Reconstruction gets photos.”

Things appear to be improving, though, Mr. Thomas said, partly because analysts for the bank and its lending partners are running the numbers on the economic benefits of resilience. “The rate of return on prevention can be 4 to 12 times the investment,” he said.

Often, he noted, there is no inconsistency between environmental conservation and resilience to disasters. He cited the example of maintaining coastal mangrove forests as a buffer against flooding. Communities bounded by mangroves persist while those exposed to the waves vanish. There’s no need to crunch numbers to figure that out.

Agricultural trade and poverty

A recent Economist article poses the question Does freer farm trade help poor people? Given the ideological slant of the Economist, it is unsurprising that the article concludes yes. The interesting aspect of the article discusses two World Bank research papers that indicate that the way in which agricultural trade is regulated has major consequences.

The links between trade, food prices and poverty reduction are more subtle. Different types of reform have diverse effects on prices. When countries cut their tariffs on farm goods, their consumers pay lower prices. In contrast, when farm subsidies are slashed, world food prices rise. The lavishness of farm subsidies means that the net effect of fully freeing trade would be to raise prices, by an average of 5.5% for primary farm products and 1.3% for processed goods, according to the World Bank.

These effects are still much smaller than recent food-price spikes, but would they, on balance, help or hurt the poor? In crude terms, food-exporting countries gain in the short term whereas net importers lose. Farmers are better off; those who buy their food fare worse. Although most of the world’s poor live in rural areas, they are not, by and large, net food sellers. A forthcoming study* of nine poor countries by M. Ataman Aksoy and Aylin Isik-Dikmelik, two economists at the World Bank, shows that even in very rural countries, such as Bangladesh and Zambia, only one-fifth of households sell more food than they buy. That suggests the losers may outnumber winners.

But things are not so simple. The authors point out that net food buyers tend to be richer than net sellers, so high food prices, on average, transfer income from richer to poorer households. And prices are not the only route through which poverty is affected. Higher farm income boosts demand for rural labour, increasing wages for landless peasants and others who buy rather than grow their food. Several studies show this income effect can outweigh the initial price effect. Finally, the farm sector itself can grow. Decades of underinvestment in agriculture have left many poor countries reliant on imports: over time that can change.

The World Bank has often argued that the balance of all these factors is likely to be positive. Although freer farm trade—and higher prices—may raise poverty rates in some countries, it will reduce them in more. One much-cited piece of evidence is a study† by Thomas Hertel, Roman Keeney, Maros Ivanic and Alan Winters. This analysis simulated the effect of getting rid of all subsidies and barriers on global prices and trade volumes. It then mapped these results on to detailed household statistics in 15 countries, which between them covered 1 billion people. Fully free trade in farm goods would reduce poverty in 13 countries while raising it in two.

But lately the bank seems to be taking a different line. Robert Zoellick, the bank’s president, claims that the food-price crisis will throw 100m people below the poverty line, undoing seven years of progress. His figure comes from extrapolating the results of a different study** by Mr Ivanic and Will Martin, another World Bank economist. This study analyses the effects of more expensive staple foods on poverty by examining household surveys in nine countries. In seven cases, higher food prices meant more poverty. (Dani Rodrik, a blogging Harvard economist, was one of the first to highlight the tension between these studies.)

In fact, the bank’s results are not as contradictory as they seem. The two studies are based on different sets of countries: only Peru, Zambia and Vietnam appear in both. And the gloomy analysis measures only the effect of pricier staple foods, whereas the other examines freer trade in all farm goods. Such trade brings broader benefits: even if higher prices for staples exacerbate poverty in some countries, at least in the short term, the effect may be outweighed by increased demand for other farm exports, such as processed goods, as rich countries cut tariffs.

These subtleties suggest two conclusions. First, the bank, and others, should beware sweeping generalisations about the impact of food prices on the poor. Second, the nature of trade reform matters. Removing rich-country subsidies on staple goods, the focus of much debate in the Doha round, may be less useful in the fight against poverty than cutting tariffs would be. The food-price crisis has not hurt the case for freer farm trade. But it has shown how important it is to get it right.

These papers only assess trade rather than agricultural practices. I would add that the ecological fit of agriculture to the place in which it is practiced will also have substantial impacts on the potential for a regions ability to escape from poverty. Increases in agricultural production that damages other ecosystem services that are important for local people’s livelihood, such a fisheries, fuelwood, flood regulation, or water quality, can do more damage than good.

Absolute poverty in China: Higher, but going down faster than previously estimated

From the Economist:

In December 2007 the World Bank unveiled the results of the biggest exercise in window shopping in history. Scouts in 146 countries scoured stalls, supermarkets and mail-order catalogues, recording the price of more than 1,000 items, from 500-gram packets of durum spaghetti to low-heeled ladies’ shoes.

This vast enterprise enabled the bank to compare the purchasing power of many countries in 2005. It uncovered some statistical surprises. Prices in China, for example, were much higher than earlier estimates had indicated, which meant the Chinese income in 2005 of 18.4 trillion yuan ($2.2 trillion at then-market exchange rates) could buy less than previously thought. At a stroke, the Chinese economy shrank, in real terms, by 40%.

Since then, many scholars have wondered what this economic demotion means for the bank’s global poverty counts. It famously draws the poverty line at “a dollar a day”, or more precisely $1.08 at 1993 purchasing-power parity (PPP). In other words, a person is poor if they consume less than an American spending $1.08 per day in 1993. By this yardstick 969m people suffered from absolute poverty in 2004, a drop of over 270m since 1990. The world owed this progress largely to China, where poverty fell by almost 250m from 1990 to 2004.

…[using a new poverty line of $1.25/day (2005 US$) Shaohua Chen and Martin Ravallion ] find that 204m Chinese people were poor in 2005, about 130m more than previously thought.

That is the bad news. The brighter news is that China’s progress against poverty is no less impressive than previously advertised. By Mr Ravallion’s and Ms Chen’s new standard, the number of poor in China fell by almost 407m from 1990 to 2004, compared with the previous estimate of almost 250m.

Well-Being vs. Wealth (2) – Natural Capital

This is the 2nd of three posts on well-being and wealth (see 1 & 3).

While the increase in average human wellbeing over the past century is good, a common worry of ecologists (and ecological economists) is much of this increase is sustainable. The answer to this question depends upon how much these improvements in well-being come from more efficient use of renewable flows versus how much comes from the liquidation of natural capital.

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