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Climate Change and Sustainability

The prosperity and advancement of humanity is sustained by an ever-expanding demand for water, energy, food, and the other natural resources. If society fails to urgently deal with this growth in demand, our inaction jeopardizes the healthy development of households and individuals, destroys the livelihood of coastal communities, threatens infrastructure investments, endangers the biodiversity of vulnerable ecosystems, and escalates the likelihood of international conflict.

Thus, the challenge facing the modern world today is to find natural resource solutions that protect both the progress of human development and the often vulnerable environment that makes it possible. While GivingWorks regularly works to promote economic development, our team also recognizes the importance of ensuring that the progress of developing economies along their growth paths does not exacerbate the climate crisis.

Two key development issues that raise climate change concerns include energy generation and urbanization. The National Commission on Energy Policy, a flagship initiative of the Bipartisan Policy Center co-chaired by a former administrator of the EPA and a future Science Advisor to the President, brought together prominent leaders from industry, government and academia to wrestle with the challenges of energy policy.

Drawing upon extensive individual consultations and background research, GivingWorks drafted systematic criteria for the Commission to set its priorities, then aided in considering the feasibility and fit of engaging with an array of reforms. The reforms spanned three crucial fields: climate regulations, energy technology, and transportation.

With respect to climate change, GivingWorks analyzed the potential of mechanisms like cap-and-trade and carbon tax and offered suggestions for the role NCEP might play; for energy technology, we assessed the feasibility of several possible transitions to forms of clean energy; finally, regarding transport, we helped synthesize available evidence on costs and benefits of low carbon vehicle standards and fleet electrification.

Urbanization is a second development trend that poses similar related risks to the environment. Cities account for 70 to 80 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, a figure that continues to climb. One-third of the urban population are slum-dwellers and are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change on health and habitation. Progress is stymied in part by gaps in cities’ capacity to address its causes and symptoms.

Recognizing the significance of climate change action for urban population centers in particular, the World Bank engaged the GivingWorks team to develop a plan for capacity-building at the intersection of urban development and climate change. GivingWorks identified potential internal synergies and catalytic external intervention points, then proposed a model that leveraged partnerships for content sourcing and learning dissemination. By selecting and evaluating promising opportunities to address critical capacity roles and value added, GivingWorks helped the client team pinpoint its role in urban climate change mitigation.

One of GivingWorks’ recommendations was the creation of “lab cities,” a small group of learner cities with similar environments, selected based on implementation of transformational initiatives. This concept provided the impetus for the subsequent “MetroLabs” initiative, which provides a platform for leaders of selected cities to learn from one another about practices of sustainable urban development.

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