Since 2012, Jim Yong Kim has headed the world’s largest development institution, the World Bank. He was born in 1959 in what was then still desperately poor South Korea and grew up in the United States. He is the first World Bank chief to hail from neither the policy nor the financial sector.
Dr. Kim is a physician and founder of the aid organization “Partners in Health.” Prior to his appointment to the World Bank, he worked for the World Health Organisation (WHO) and was the president of Dartmouth College.
The World Bank president sat down with Handelsblatt to discuss the two-week United Nations climate change summit, which began in Paris on Monday. He also discussed global poverty and his bright outlook for the future.
Handelsblatt. Mr. Kim, the World Bank’s mission is to fight poverty. Why is it making climate change such a big focus of your efforts?
Jim Kim: We just published a report on the connection between poverty and climate. And the estimate is that if we don’t take strong action on climate change by 2030, we’ll have an additional 100 million people living in poverty.
How have you come to this conclusion?
Three factors have a huge impact on people living in poverty. We already know that access to water is going to be a major problem. First of all it will have an effect on agriculture and the inability to grow the basic food that people in Africa will need. And water does not just affect agriculture but health. Diarrhea and Cholera outbreaks will increase because of an inability to access clean water. With the changing micro environments the number of people at risk from malaria too will expand. So health is the second factor. The third factor is natural disasters, which hit poor people particularly hard. Every time there is an extreme weather event in Mozambique, the outcomes are disastrous. There are no water management systems, no dikes.
But wasn’t China particularly successful in fighting poverty without doing anything about climate change?
What we are experiencing now is the fundamental shift between economic growth and emissions. Yes, China has burned a lot of coal and lifted 600 million people out of extreme poverty. There is no case like it. But if you look at the current ambition to fight climate change, one can see the carbon emission reduction goals for China are enormous. Moreover, they have said that in 2017 they want to enter into a nationwide carbon trading program. I know that this is going to move markets.