The President of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim has warned that the battles over water and food will erupt within the next five to 10 years as a result of climate change, urging those campaigning against global warming to learn the lessons of how protesters and scientists joined forces in the battle against HIV.
Jim Yong Kim said it was possible to cap the rise in global temperatures at 2C but that so far there had been a failure to replicate the “unbelievable” success of the 15-year-long coalition of activists and scientists to develop a treatment for HIV.
The bank’s president – a doctor active in the campaign to develop drugs to treat HIV – said he had asked the climate change community: “Do we have a plan that’s as good as the plan we had for HIV?” The answer, unfortunately, was no.
“Is there enough basic science research going into renewable energy? Not even close. Are there ways of taking discoveries made in universities and quickly moving them into industry? No. Are there ways of testing those innovations? Are there people thinking about scaling [up] those innovations?”
Speaking ahead of the biannual World Bank meeting, Kim added: “They [the climate change community] kept saying, ‘What do you mean a plan?’ I said a plan that’s equal to the challenge. A plan that will convince anyone who asks us that we’re really serious about climate change, and that we have a plan that can actually keep us at less than 2C warming. We still don’t have one.
“We’re trying to help and we find ourselves being more involved then I think anyone at the bank had predicted even a couple of years ago. We’ve got to put the plan together.”
Kim said there were four areas where the bank could help specifically in the fight against global warming: finding a stable price for carbon; removing fuel subsidies; investing in cleaner cities; and developing climate-smart agriculture. Improved access to clean water and sanitation was vital, he added, as he predicted that tension over resources would result from inaction over global warming.
“The water issue is critically related to climate change. People say that carbon is the currency of climate change. Water is the teeth. Fights over water and food are going to be the most significant direct impacts of climate change in the next five to 10 years. There’s just no question about it.
“So getting serious about access to clean water, access to sanitation is a very important project. Water and sanitation has not had the same kind of champion that global health, and even education, have had.”
The World Bank president admitted that his organisation had made mistakes in the past, including a belief that people in poor countries should pay for healthcare. He warned that a failure to tackle inequality risked social unrest.
“There’s now just overwhelming evidence that those user fees actually worsened health outcomes. There’s no question about it. So did the bank get it wrong before? Yeah. I think the bank was ideological.”