The issue of climate change is heating up the policy world. This past November we witnessed the landmark joint agreement between the United States and China to cut carbon emissions and increase the use of renewable energy. This December, we expect to see more of the same progressive changes at the Conference of the Parties (COP) climate talk in Paris. But, will it be enough? According to some experts, the reformed emissions targets are still too moderate to save us from irreversible global warming. If we are unable to stop Earth’s atmospheric temperatures from rising 3.6 °C, we may see consequences such as rising sea levels, extreme droughts, food shortages, and uncontrolled disease outbreaks. These dire visions are already a reality in Malawi, where catastrophic flooding has displaced at least 174,000 people since mid-January.
With these challenges in mind, it seems our best bet lies in the adaptation and mitigation of the effects of climate change. Developing nations that will likely suffer the most from climate change are often the least responsible or prepared for its effects. The World Bank, along with many international sponsors, has sought to remedy this unfortunate truth by funding climate-oriented projects in developing countries. The difficulty for many of these large organizations, however, now lies in seeing the overall picture of their many individual projects. Are these donors sending climate-relevant money and projects to the neediest of countries? How do we define this “neediness?” As part of the Climate Change and African Political Stability Project (CCAPS), we attempted to answer these questions by analyzing World Bank projects in Sub-Saharan Africa from 2008 to 2012 for climate change relevance using a coding methodology CCAPS first piloted in 2013 for Malawi. We then mapped these various project locations and funding amounts in an attempt to visualize the relationship between need and total World Bank involvement. Unsurprisingly, we found that there is no definitive way to answer this question. The more we explored, the more questions we found.
To evaluate the efficacy of allocation in World Bank climate funding, the IPD Climate Change Team compared the location of World Bank climate-relevant projects to the CCAPS climate vulnerability index. This vulnerability index is a composite of four baskets of indicators that together predict an area's vulnerability to climate change: physical exposure, community and household resilience, governance and political violence, and population density. This was how we broadly defined the relative “neediness” in each country. Figure 1 shows the result of this exercise:
At first glance, the World Bank’s climate projects appear to be relatively distributed based on vulnerability. Highly vulnerable areas, such as Somalia and South Sudan, have more project locations than the less vulnerable southern states of Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa. However, this map presents an oversimplified analysis. It excludes information on project size and funding amount. It also weights each project location the same, whether the project has one location or 100 locations, and does not consider funding at the national level.
In order to address these oversimplifications, we made a series of maps that explored different ways of analyzing the same data. We first wanted to look at the amount of funding that went to each project. Logically, the most vulnerable areas should have received the most funding. To test this hypothesis, we used different sized dots to represent the amount of funding for a given project and normalized this amount by the number of locations associated with the project. In other words, we took the project’s total budget commitment and divided it by the number of locations. The map below shows this relationship between activity funding and vulnerability.
Although there are only five climate projects with 24 locations in the less-vulnerable, southern states (South Africa, Namibia, Botswana), this map highlights that the projects are much larger than those found in more vulnerable areas such as Somalia or Central African Republic. At $250 million, South Africa had the sixth largest climate project, out of 291 climate projects, in all of Sub-Saharan Africa. Not far behind, Botswana received the eighth largest project at $242 million. To be clear, this map does not consider funding at the national level or population size, and assumes that each location of a project receives the same amount of funding, which is likely inaccurate.
The more we explored the data, the more the information contradicted our previous conclusions. Though each map attempted to answer the relationship between vulnerability and World Bank projects, each map showed a different facet to the same question. The only thing we can conclude is how difficult it is to evaluate the effectiveness of the World Bank’s response to climate change. Aid allocation depends on issues more nebulous than a country’s level of vulnerability.
Forthcoming research will explore “10 Ways to Evaluate the World Bank’s Climate Change Projects in Sub-Saharan Africa” and provide a more detailed comparison of World Bank climate change projects to climate vulnerability.
IPD's Ilse Munoz-Ramirez, Senior studying Plan II and Geography, and Tiffany Wang, Freshman studying Supply Chain Management, co-authored this post.
Maps by Krista Rasmussen, MA candidate, Global Policy Studies, LBJ School of Public Affairs.