Green Structural Adjustment in the World Bank’s climate city

Authors: Sophie Webber*, University of Sydney, Patrick Bigger, Lancaster Environment Centre Lancaster University
Topics: Economic Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: World Bank, structural adjustment, climate change, urban resilience, infrastructure
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Capitol Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Over the last decade the World Bank has struggled to reinvent itself as its relevance and impact wanes. During this period, the Bank’s lending has been proportionally dwarfed by other kinds of financial flows into the Global South, while the impacts of climate change exacerbates poverty and inequality thereby undoing previous development gains. In response, the Bank has reimagined its practices. Rather than lending directly to nation-states and mandating neoliberalizing reforms, it now devotes significant resources to facilitating private investment into public goods, such as infrastructure, intended to improve the lives and withstand the environmental rigours of global warming in vulnerable cities of the Global South. However, rendering infrastructure investable requires policy, knowledge, financial, and governance transformations. The World Bank works across all these arenas – national and municipal policy changes, the production of scientific knowledge, and capacity building for bureaucrats and financial actors and institutions – to encourage and facilitate cities’ access to global capital markets. Here, we outline these new practices and situate them within longer histories of uneven development, neoliberal restructuring, and climatic change across spaces and scales. Drawing on policy documents, reports, and interviews with key Bank staff, we demonstrate that a new era of structural adjustment is at hand. We call this catalogue of transformations the “Green Structural Adjustment”. In this paper, we focus on how the conditions for building bankable infrastructure projects are accomplished through the Green Structural Adjustment and outline its preliminary effects.

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