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Environmental Sustainability

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Bank Group support for the environment has grown during the past 15 years and performance has improved. At the same time, environmental challenges have increased, and problems in the critical areas of pollution, congestion, loss of species, and climate change have worsened.

In view of the public goods nature of these concerns, the Bank Group has a special role to play with respect to environmental issues—and has indeed been a leader in the analysis and advocacy that helps countries focus on these challenges. It is also the largest multilateral source of environment-related financing. But far greater progress is needed. These concerns must be given increased operational priority, as should how the Bank, IFC, and MIGA work together, in recognition that long-term economic growth, poverty reduction, and environmental sustainability are interlinked.

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The World Bank assists countries through analytical, advisory, and lending services to help them address environmental priorities and support policy reforms. Engagement of IFC and MIGA with the private sector has mostly sought to ensure that investments adhere to environmental standards and that Advisory Services support broader environmental sustainability in the private sector. While IFC and MIGA have fewer direct investment projects designed to improve the environment per se, all of their financing operations, as is also the case for all World Bank investment projects, need to meet environmental due diligence requirements.

bank logo smallThe World Bank and the environment ifc small logomiga logo smallIFC, MIGA and the environment

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mapHow has the Bank responded to key environmental issues in its country strategies, economic and sector work, and lending and grant operations?

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glossary iconHow does the Bank define climate change?

Change of climate that is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and that is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.

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This evaluation assesses the Bank Group's support for environmental sustainability—in both the public and private sectors—over the past 15 years. It identifies several crucial constraints that need to be addressed, perhaps most importantly insufficient government commitment to environmental goals and weak institutional capacity to deal with them. But constraints within the Bank Group, including insufficient attention to longer-term sustainable development, must be reduced as well. The Bank Group needs improved systems in place—across the World Bank, IFC, and MIGA —to monitor environmental outcomes and to assess impacts. Better coordination among the three parts of the Bank Group is also among the key challenges.


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blue_arrow.gifAlso see: Evaluation Methodology (PDF)

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questionHow does the Bank Help Developing Countries Protect Their Environment?Environmental and natural resource management (ENRM) activities are increasingly being integrated into sectoral projects. As much as 89 percent of ENRM portfolio projects are currently being managed by non-environmental sectors in the Bank, indicating the extent of environmental mainstreaming. 
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blue_arrow.gifThe Bank's country strategies generally take account of national environmental priorities, although insufficient attention has often been given to longer-run sustainability concerns.
blue_arrow.gifWorld Bank nonlending activities have often had results that are as significant as those of lending operations in terms of environmental improvement. But even where environmental problems are particularly serious, they have sometimes been treated unevenly in Bank analytical and/or lending activities.
blue_arrow.gifGovernment ownership of environmental objectives is of particular importance.
blue_arrow.gifThe Bank Group has worked with and through a number of regional and global environmental programs and networks. This has often enhanced the effectiveness of Bank Group support for environmental sustainability at both the country and global levels, although some donors view the Bank as an insufficiently responsive partner.

Country- and firm-level constraints include:

  • Insufficient commitment to environmental objectives, policies, and interventions;
  • Rapid population growth, economic expansion, persisting poverty and market, governance, and institutional failures;
  • Political instability and civil unrest;
  • Inadequacy of information and understanding of the nature and causes of environmental problems and unclear definition of the domestic environmental agenda and its links to economic growth and poverty reduction; and weak legal, regulatory, financial, technical, human, and institutional capacity. 

Constraints within the World Bank Group are:

  • Competing priorities for the attention of senior managers
  • Insufficient staff technical and operational skills
  • Suboptimal use of limited administrative budgets.

blue_arrow.gifIncrease attention to environmental sustainability in the World Bank Group by ensuring that environmental issues enter fully into discussions of its strategic directions and in Regional and country assistance programs.
blue_arrow.gifMove to more cross-sectoral and spatially oriented approaches to environmental support and strengthen staff skills.
blue_arrow.gifImprove the Bank Group's ability to assess its support for the environment and to monitor and evaluate the impacts of its environment-related interventions.
blue_arrow.gifImprove coordination among the Bank, IFC, and MIGA and between the World Bank Group and external partners (both public and private) in relation to the Bank Group's environmental mission and ensure consistent and effective implementation at the corporate and country levels.

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