7 Environment and Development Stories to Watch in 2019
World Resources Institute - One hundred years ago, 1919 was a really big year: Countries signed the Treaty of Versailles to end World War I, Mahatma Gandhi began his nonviolent resistance against British rule, the Grand Canyon became a national park. And on a lighter note, pop-up toasters entered kitchens for the first time!
A century later, 2019 shows signs of being another big year—and a precarious one, as WRI President and CEO Andrew Steer explained at the Institute’s annual Stories to Watch presentation on January 9 in Washington.
The following seven stories are the ones to watch this year when it comes to the future of environment and international development:
1. Will geopolitics stymie international climate action?
Political shakeups in several major countries make the future of international climate action uncertain. Brazil’s government swung far right in 2018 with the election of President Jair Bolsonaro, while Mexico moved left with new President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Looking ahead to 2019, voters in India and Indonesia will cast ballots while China faces the challenge of an economic slowdown.
Two key moments will show how these changes will affect international climate action: at the UN climate summit in September, will national leaders indicate they will step up with ambitious climate commitments? Will they increase funding for the Green Climate Fund, which invests in low-emission and climate-resilient development, during its replenishment period in October? And will businesses outpace governments on bold climate action?
2. Will climate adaptation rise on the global agenda?
The impacts of climate change have never been clearer or more threatening. The number of extreme climate-related disasters, like droughts and floods, has doubled since the 1990s. More than 150 million more people are exposed to heat-related health risks today than in 2000.
Yet there’s a lack of leadership, metrics and finance to help people adapt to the results of a changing climate. “Adaptation has been the poor sister of mitigation,” Steer said.
That could change this year. The World Bank announced that half of its climate investments will now go toward adaptation. A new Global Commission on Adaptation, led by Kristalina Georgieva, Ban Ki-moon and Bill Gates, was launched in October 2018 and aims to raise the profile of adaptation and accelerate action around the world. The Commission, convened by 17 countries, will release a flagship research report in September along with several action tracks to address specific adaptation challenges.
3. Will “fast fashion” slow down?
Consumers are buying 60 percent more clothes today than they did in 2000, and one garbage truck of discarded clothing is burned or sent to a landfill every second of every day. The social and environmental impacts of “fast fashion” are impossible to ignore. For example: One cotton t-shirt requires 2,700 liters (more than 700 gallons) of water to produce, an amount that would provide drinking water for the average person for two-and-a-half years.