None of the 157 members of the World Bank Group have objected to plans to double investments in climate action, according to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, who says he does not debate whether climate change exists anymore.
He addressed a lecture at Wits University in Johannesburg on Monday evening, the same day the Washington-based lender announced an increased investment of around $200bn (R2.8trn) from 2021-2025, at the United Nations COP24 in Poland.
United States President Donald Trump in June 2017 withdrew from the Paris Agreement, an international accord which committed nearly 200 countries to reduce their carbon emissions to prevent global temperatures from increasing more than 1.5°C above historical levels. The US is a member of the World Bank Group.
The World Bank investment will include building infrastructure that can withstand changing temperatures, preparing farmers for climate shifts, as well as improve weather forecasting and early warning systems in developing countries.
Kim said there were tremendous opportunities to invest in a low carbon future, adding that any investment in SA could be seen as 'impact investing' due to the social as well as the financial returns it brings.
According to Kim, the country’s investment in people in the form of health and education is dire as revealed by SA’s place on the World Bank’s Human Capital Index.
"SA happens to rank 126 out of 157 countries and this is nothing short of an absolute crisis We have to figure out what infrastructure to bold in order to provide the greatest opportunity for all South Africans," said Kim.
He added that World Bank data shows that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has a greater impact than sovereign guaranteed loans to developing countries.
South Africa will need to improve its institutions so as to attract foreign investment and make investors feel confident, according to Kim.
In response to an audience question about the internal politics of the country, Kim said the World Bank’s articles of agreement forbade him from commenting, but some social issues required discussion.
"Let me just be very blunt, we are very upset about what's happening in Tanzania. There are some things that happening that we are very upset by… And we have made ourselves very clear, that we cannot tolerate that," Kim said.
The World Bank in November reversed a plan to loan Tanzania $300m (R4.2bn) after the country reaffirmed its policy of banning pregnant girls from school, and criminalised the questioning of official statistics.
The European Union, meanwhile, has launched a review of its policies towards Tanzania, and Denmark will withhold aid over homophobia.
* Sign up to Fin24's top news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO FIN24 NEWSLETTER