When I joined the Bank more than 10 years ago, we had an aging Environmental Policy from 1979 (albeit a leader in its day), and terms like safeguards, sustainability, climate change, natural capital, and sustainable infrastructure were simply not part of the lexicon. But before you are too hard on us, put the world and life of 2005 into perspective: You didn’t have an iPhone, YouTube wasn’t a household name, Twitter didn’t exist, and Donald Trump was a reality show host. The Kyoto Protocol was only just coming into effect, George W. Bush was President of the US, the DOW Jones Industrial Average was in the middle of a 5 year bull market prior to the 2007 financial collapse, CO2 measurements were still below 400 ppm, and it was the year in which Bolivia elected its first president who descended from indigenous peoples, Evo Morales
The Bank’s new Environment and Safeguards Policy was finalized in 2005, and went into effect the following year. A lot has changed in the 10 years since. Together with the Resettlement Policy (approved several years prior), we have added policies to safeguard the interests of indigenous peoples and gender equality in development, as well as improved disaster risk management and have issued guidelines and knowledge pieces to support their implementation in a variety of sectors. In these 10 years, we have assembled a critical mass of environmental and social safeguard experts to work with our countries to apply these policies and international best practices to the Bank’s investments in the region. As a result, 2015 registered our highest levels of compliance to date, with 89% of projects with high environmental and social risks and impacts achieving ‘Satisfactory Performance’ in the application of international safeguard standards.
We have also seen the birth, coming of age, and maturity of cornerstone initiatives, programs and funds that serve to embed sustainability and climate considerations into every aspect of the Bank’s work. Most notably, that includes the launch of the Sustainable Energy and Climate Change Initiative in 2007, the Emerging and Sustainable Cities Platform in 2011 and a Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Platform in 2012. We have directed increasingly larger shares of our funds to sustainable investments. In 2015, over a third of our lending supported climate change initiatives, sustainable energy, and environmental sustainability, exceeding our target of 25%. An increasing number of our projects also included gender and diversity considerations.
As for me, I’ve written (with much help I may add!) the IDB’s Sustainability Report every year for the last decade. Looking back through these it’s fair to say that we have achieved a lot, but there is much work still to be done. Take a look at the timeline infographic below for a snapshot of some of these achievements, and then go online and explore our interactive Sustainability and Safeguards Timeline and read our new Sustainability Report available for download now!