WASHINGTON Despite the current global financial storm, rich countries are resolved to keep up funding to help developing nations combat climate change, a top World Bank environment official said on Tuesday.
Countries that have pledged to donate a total of $6.1 billion to the bank's newly created Climate Investment Funds are "very resolute," said Kathy Sierra, the international lending organization's vice president for sustainable development.
"They are going to continue to support these types of activities because they see both a short-term and a long-term implication," Sierra told reporters at a meeting of the funds' donor and recipient countries in Washington.
That was in line with World Bank President Robert Zoellick's remarks at the end of a meeting of world finance and development ministers on Sunday.
"I think one of the lessons of today's crisis is you have to get ahead of these things, and so there is no doubt that climate change is a problem today and will be a problem tomorrow," Zoellick said. "And so, what we are trying to do at the Bank is to ... catch up and then get ahead of it."
Sierra said it was unclear whether such funds would continue to flow into the private sector, and said this could become more challenging in the future.
However, she said, one consequence of the present financial crisis could be to spur demand for environmentally sound development as a way to cut costs.
"I suspect there will be even more demand, because many of the solutions for the real economy will start looking for opportunities to decrease costs and become more efficient," she said. "So energy efficiency, for example, is going to be even more important going forward."
The climate investment fund is meant to help developing countries put larger-scale, environmentally sustainable projects in place as the world negotiates how to curb greenhouse gas emissions after 2012, when the first phase of the carbon-capping Kyoto Protocol expires.
These negotiations are taking place through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, with a meeting set for Poznan, Poland, in December. The negotiations are set to conclude at a meeting in Copenhagen in 2009.
Sierra said Mexico is expected to be one of the funds' first partners in environmental programs, saying this country has been "a great intellectual leader (with) ... a very strong climate change strategy."
Earlier, Mexico's environment minister, Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada, told the meeting, "As the current financial crisis unfolds, a plausible fear exists that the bailout of financial institutions will draw all attention and necessary resources away from climate change mitigation. In other words, in order to address what is urgent, we fail to address what is important."
(Editing by Sandra Maler)