Climate change and increased variability are already affecting many development sectors –agriculture, water, health, and infrastructure – and will continue to do so in the coming decades. Adaptation is at the centre of the World Bank’s support to developing countries as it is critical to sustaining and furthering development gains in these countries.
Adaptation will require more resilient infrastructure, broader disaster relief and preparedness measures, and new agricultural technologies and practices to counter the increased climate risks. This could divert resources from other development programs unless more funding is made available. In some cases, adoption of less greenhouse gas-intensive technologies may need to be accelerated despite higher commercial costs and risks. Emerging cost estimates of additional investments needed in developing countries—from public and private sources—are in the hundreds of billions of dollars a year for several decades.
Climate change affects the poor and the vulnerable in two main ways. First, agriculture productivity is very sensitive to changes in rainfall and the length of seasons, and poor people are heavily dependent on agriculture as a source of income and sustenance. Many poor people also live in areas that are acutely vulnerable to severe weather, and greater extremes will continue to make their lives more fragile.
The World Bank is helping developing countries and their people find ways to adapt to the changes that have begun. Traditional development activities often enhance adaptive capacity, but some can worsen problems. Adaptation is thus not a standalone issue, but needs to be integrated throughout national, sectoral, regional, and local planning processes, as well as at the project level. Developing drought-resistant crops, managing scarce water supplies, protecting forests and coastal ecosystems, and improving access to energy will all help vulnerable groups survive in coming decades.
The World Bank is helping countries adapt in many ways, including:
- Improving weather data collection and forecasts (for farmers and insurers)
- Providing technical assistance (such as extension services on new crop varieties, help for health systems addressing new diseases)
- Developing and sharing knowledge on options in land use, forestry, and agriculture
- Assessing risk and vulnerability
- Prioritizing investment through better understanding of options and costs
- Helping develop drought- and saline-resistant crops
- Eliminating counterproductive incentives (such as subsidies for water-intensive crops)
- Creating appropriate incentives for private sector action (including private insurance)
- Improving land security and social protection
- Improving integrated river-basin and ecosystems-based planning
- Strengthening institutions in key sectors (including water, agriculture, infrastructure)
- Increasing coordination among sectors for disaster risk management
- Improving participatory processes and community involvement in decisions
- Strengthening disaster preparedness and safety nets for disaster-hit households
- Providing key public services (hydro-meteorological services, early warning systems)
The World Bank’s official strategic approach to climate change and development  was finalized in October 2008 and is in the implementation phase. The main approaches to adaptation focus on financing climate resilience and adaptation, expanding knowledge, and forging partnerships.
The World Bank Group is using numerous instruments—grants, concessional credits, various types of loans and guarantees, equity, carbon finance—to help developing countries finance adaptation to climate change. For example, the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience, a pilot under the Strategic Climate Fund , will provide about $500 million for scaled-up action in integrating climate resilience into national development planning in nine developing countries.
The Bank Group has significantly stepped up its research and analytical work on climate change across sectors and issues; the focus includes the local, national, regional, and global levels. The main objective is to support client countries in understanding climate change and development linkages, with attention to the nature, costs, and social dimensions of adaptation in each country.
The Economics of Adaptation Study , due to be released in Fall 2009, will help decision makers in developing countries better understand and assess the risks posed by climate change, so that they can better cost, prioritize, sequence, and integrate adaptation strategies into their development plans and budgets, all while dealing with economic uncertainty, competing needs, and limited resources.
Working with partners  is particularly important for a challenge that is so massive and multidimensional. The Bank Group is one of the many actors on this complex issue. To support developing countries and contribute to a global solution, we will continue strengthening and building new partnerships at the international, regional, national, and local levels, basing the division of labor on the advantages and mandates of the respective institutions.
Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery  (GFDRR) for example, is a global partnership led by the World Bank and the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction. Over several years, it has helped reduce vulnerabilities to natural hazards and extreme events to high-risk countries. Today, donor pledges stand at $83 million, and the GFDRR has 35 climate change adaptation programs underway.
The World Bank is also working closely with the Global Environment Facility . In Yemen, for example, a GEF project is tapping the knowledge developed by women farmers on drought- resistant crops, as well as assessing women’s role in enhancing households’ and communities’ resilience to climate change.