By Megan Rowling
BARCELONA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The World Bank Group plans to invest more of its funds to help developing countries adapt to the impacts of climate change, in an effort to stop extreme weather and rising seas from making poverty worse.
In a climate change action plan released late Thursday, the bank said it would bring early warning systems to an extra 100 million people in 15 developing countries, and social safety nets to protect an additional 50 million people by 2020.
The bank will also develop plans for adjusting agriculture to climate shifts in at least 40 countries through measures like hardier seeds, farming methods that capture carbon, and energy-efficient irrigation systems.
"If we don't act, climate change threatens to drive 100 million more people into poverty in the next 15 years," said John Roome, World Bank Group senior director for climate change.
"The action plan will allow us to help developing countries more quickly, and in the areas where support is most needed, such as disaster preparedness, social protection and coastal protection."
Other activities in the plan include providing five more countries with national-level insurance against disaster risk.
The bank will also pilot a new approach in 15 cities to make them safer by integrating infrastructure, land use planning and disaster risk management.
Over the last five fiscal years, the group has committed more than $50 billion to climate-related activities through over 900 projects.
Of that sum, 73 percent was allocated to reducing emissions through investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency and changes to urban transport and railways.
Only 27 percent was focused on helping people and countries adapt to a changing climate.
The split reflects a common bias in climate finance that many development experts say needs to be corrected.
In the action plan, the bank said its climate portfolio would be rebalanced, "putting a greater focus on adaptation and resilience", although it did not state a specific proportion.
The bank reconfirmed plans to increase the climate-related share of its overall investment from 21 to 28 percent by 2020, with total financing of potentially $29 billion per year by that date, including $13 billion leveraged from the private sector.
Its new strategy seeks to help developing countries deliver on national plans to curb emissions and adapt to a warmer world, which they submitted for the Paris climate deal agreed in December.
"We are moving urgently to help countries make major transitions to increase sources of renewable energy, decrease high-carbon energy sources, develop green transport systems, and build sustainable, liveable cities for growing urban populations," said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim.
The bank said it aims to support developing nations in adding 30 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2020, enough to power 150 million homes, and will design sustainable forest management strategies for more than 50 countries.
The group, which has been criticized in the past for backing fossil fuel infrastructure, will adopt a new approach to taking climate change into account in its work, extending screening for climate risk to all its operations in early 2017, it said.
(Reporting by Megan Rowling, editing by Alisa Tang. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)