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Long-term climate strategies that look ahead to 2050 can help countries unlock new economic opportunities while also ensuring a safer climate, says a new World Bank report.

The World Bank Outlook 2050: Strategic Directions Note proposes a whole-of-economy approach to reaching decarbonisation by mid-century through actions across sectors, including food systems, energy, transport, water systems and low-carbon cities.

“The World Bank is committed to supporting countries to build a resilient and sustainable future with long-term climate strategies as an integral element in their overall development plan,” said Mari Pangestu, the World Bank’s Managing Director of Development Policy and Partnerships.

“By planning ahead, these strategies can boost new economic activity and innovations, creating the jobs of the future, while also securing a safer climate especially for the poorest and most vulnerable,” added Pangestu.

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Climate change will exacerbate existing development challenges, hitting the poorest the hardest, with critical implications for poverty, food security, health, quality of life, and economic productivity. The report argues that long-term country-led decarbonisation strategies are essential to securing better growth, climate, and development outcomes.

These strategies can also help countries with the economic recovery from COVID-19: securing a safer climate, while optimising the use of public resources and mobilising private finance. For example, rapid electrification of health facilities could help with the near-term COVID-19 response and help boost a country’s solar industry, particularly off-grid solar and mini-grids.

“An economy-wide approach can encourage countries and financial institutions to look beyond 3-5-year planning cycles and focus on the decades ahead,” said Juergen Voegele, the World Bank’s Vice President for Sustainable Development. “The World Bank is supporting countries to think through what a sustainable recovery might look like, identifying ways we can support them to build back stronger and better.”

The report lays out a series of recommendations to advance long term decarbonisation in eight areas that require cross-sectoral solutions, namely:

  • Food systems, recognising that food production and supply systems need to scale up dramatically in the coming decades, but that they are also a major source of emissions and highly vulnerable to climate change;
  • Land-based ecosystems and carbon sinks, including forests, which are crucial to sustaining human life, but are growing sources of emissions due to land-use change and land degradation;
  • Energy systems, with a focus on decarbonising and decentralising the power sector, ensuring a plentiful supply of low-carbon electricity to meet growing demand, enhancing resource efficiency of energy production and use and aligning energy sector investments with climate goals;
  • Mobility, by reducing unnecessary travel through better land use planning and other strategies; shifting the modes by which people travel, including away from private vehicle use; and reducing emissions from all transport modes through technological innovation;
  • Low-carbon, resilient urban areas that increase livability, recognising that by 2050, more than two-thirds of the global population will live in cities, which are major sources of emissions and highly vulnerable to climate impacts;
  • Water systems, which are already under growing pressure from climate change, play a central role in many sectors, and are a growing source of emissions;
  • The ocean economy, recognising that the oceans directly support millions of livelihoods, provide vital ecosystems services, and absorb a large share of global emissions; and finally,
  • Digital transformation, including the potential for new technologies to help reduce emissions across all sectors and boost resilience, as well as to reduce the sectors own growing emissions.

Across each of these areas, the report offers an overview of World Bank engagement to date and identifies potential new frontiers for its technical assistance and lending.

World Bank Outlook 2050: Strategic Directions Note. Supporting Countries to Meet Long-Term Goals for Decarbonisation is available for download here.

The report forms part of the Kickstarting the Sustainable Recovery series organised by the World Bank’s Climate Change Group in partnership with Innovate4Climate to shed light on how sustainable finance can be part of the COVID-19 recovery and help countries build back better and stronger.

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