Many NGOs and officials welcomed the new World Bank environmental strategy, adopted this July. But doubts remain about its implementation.
The strategy pledges that the Bank will work on enhancing livelihoods, preventing and mitigating environmental health risks and reducing vulnerability to environmental hazards. Specific work will include helping improve natural resource management, reducing poor peoples’ exposure to air pollution, waterborne diseases and toxic chemicals, introducing payments for environmental services, improving weather forecasting and assessing the impacts of natural disasters.
As part of its policy work with governments the Bank aims to improve on environmental policy, regulatory and institutional frameworks and environmental assessments. It also aims to create markets for environmental goods and services and improve citizens’ access to environmental information.
Much of the strategy seems to downplay tensions and contradictions between its various aims. It also appears to be over-optimistic about what the Bank can do. However, there are many positive elements, including an entire chapter outlining needed institutional changes at the Bank. It recognises: “we need to align our incentives, resource allocation, and skills mix to accelerate the shift from viewing the environment as a separate, freestanding concern to considering it an integral part of our development assistance.” It notes that it is particularly urgent to “integrate environmental considerations into the PRSPs”.