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Combine climate change with a rapid population shift from rural areas to cities and you have a multi-trillion dollar infrastructure gap in developing countries. Central governments and NGOs appear unable to fill the gap on their own –; a dynamic that will be made worse by the costs associated with managing Covid-19. Researchers from the Brookings Institution –; supported by the United Nations –; estimate that up to $5 trillion of additional infrastructure investment is needed annually.
The World Bank and other international financial institutions are urging rich countries to mobilize private capital to fund better infrastructure and help keep hundreds of millions of people from living in hazardous informal settlements.
That drive, however, is being held up to new scrutiny by researchers who worry that the changing climate is being used to push a green version of the Bank”;s much-criticized structural adjustments programs from the 1980s and ’90s. Those programs helped turbo-charge urbanization and funded infrastructure projects such as heavily-criticized dams.
The World Bank shifted its focus to poverty alleviation and state capacity building beginning in 2002, researchers Patrick Bigger and Sophie Pedder write, but the “;logic and practices”; of structural adjustment “;never went away,”; said Bigger, a lecturer at Lancaster University in the U.K.
The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund no longer worry about governments carrying too much debt, as they did in the ’80s and ’90s. Instead, the Bank is now pushing municipal governments in developing countries to make reforms so they can take on more debt to finance new infrastructure.
The Bank”;s current message is that “;if city governments are not reformed in investment-friendly ways, those cities will continue to be cut off from access to the $106 trillion swirling on global capital markets.”;
In other words: Cities in developing countries will be starved of financing and hammered by climate change unless they become more like cities in richer countries. It”;s a prospect Pedder and Bigger describe as the “;grim narrowness of perpetual austerity." And they give it a label: “;Green Structural Adjustment”;.
Some of the programs on offer from the World Bank include basic support for getting cities access to capital, such as the World Bank”;s City Creditworthiness Initiative, which has trained over 650 local officials via workshops in India, Africa and the Middle East since 2014. The Bank claims that for every $1 spent on this type of technical assistance, tens of dollars in investment flows to cities.
Other programs more clearly match Bigger and Pedder”;s critique: The World Bank”;s City Resilience Program, for example, promises to work with 45 cities to “;focus on catalyzing a transparent pipeline of well prepared and bankable investments to enhance urban resilience.”;
Overall, Bigger said that the World Bank identifies 30 different tools –; including public-private partnerships and Green Bonds –; that “;make public goods investable.”;
SUSTAINABLE FINANCE SNAPSHOTS
ESG investing lacks diversity data: George Serafeim, a Harvard Business School professor, is trying to change that through the Impact-Weighted Account Project. The U.S. does not require companies to gather diversity data, but individual investors can request it. Last year, for instance, the New York City Comptroller, who oversees city pension funds holding $153 billion in assets, launched an initiative pressuring companies to consider women and people of color in their searches for board members and CEOs. So far, 13 have adopted the policy, including Hilton Worldwide and Expedia.
Climate change threatens U.S. mortgage market: U.S. taxpayers could be on the hook for billions of dollars in climate-related property losses. A POLITICO analysis found the government backs a growing number of mortgages on homes in the path of floods, fires and extreme weather. A series of disasters in a single region could trigger a full-blown housing crash. Fannie Mae sounded an alarm at least as early as 2017, according to a confidential document obtained by POLITICO. A National Bureau of Economic Research working paper in February concluded that homes in flood plains are overvalued by $34 billion because homebuyers don”;t fully price in the high risk of climate-related disasters.
Poland goes slightly green: Poland”;s climate ministry will launch a $3 billion green investment scheme, Climate Minister Michał Kurtyka told POLITICO. That plan is notable for two reasons: because Poland is usually reluctant to sign up to EU climate plans, and because its small scale guarantees limited impact. Eligible projects will include renewables, offshore wind projects in the Baltic Sea, electric transport, cleaner heating systems and energy efficiency improvements.
Read more: politico.com