Image by Gerardo Pesantez/World Bank
  • Blog
  • 13 June 2023

Reduced visibility? Opening up World Bank climate finance data

DI adapts World Bank data to allow users to identify which of their twenty thousand plus projects count towards the aggregate climate finance figures, and by how much.

Written by Euan Ritchie

Senior Development Finance Policy Advisor

Low- and middle-income countries face significant challenges in accessing the financial resources needed to address climate change effectively. Estimates of the total amount of finance needed to support such countries to build green, resilient infrastructure run into the trillions, and so far, wealthier countries have failed to meet even comparatively modest targets for climate finance provision. What’s more, transparency around such finance has been lacking, and this has been especially true for the World Bank.

The World Bank is by far the largest provider of climate finance. In the fiscal year 2022, the different arms of the Bank collectively spent US$32 billion, and according to the most recent data, it accounted for more than half of total climate finance commitments from multilateral development banks. The majority of this (US$26 billion) comes from the Bank’s two main lending arms: International Development Association (IDA) and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD).

But it isn’t easy to establish how this climate finance is spent. The World Bank publishes aggregate figures, but not (to our knowledge) detailed, project-level data that allows for deeper analysis. Without this, we can’t know how the Bank’s climate finance is targeted, how that differs from the other development finance it provides, what goals the climate finance aims to achieve and how realistic they are.

Wealthy countries (those in the “annex II” group of countries) are required to provide to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) a breakdown of projects that count towards their claimed climate finance commitments. As we and others have documented extensively, there are numerous problems with this data: lack of comparability with other data sources, subjectivity in what counts as climate finance, and difficulty in tracking actual disbursements (rather than merely commitments). But project-level data is at least available, providing users with some information about the types of projects carried out in each country and often allowing connection with other datasets.

To our knowledge, this dataset has not been compiled for the World Bank despite both its position as the largest provider of climate finance, and the rapid increase in the share of its total finance dedicated towards climate. It’s possible to download the list of all World Bank projects, but this doesn’t include the share of each that is counted as climate finance. The data is available on individual project pages – along with project documents, objectives and key performance indicators – but it’s difficult to analyse systematically in this format. For example, you can’t examine the nature of all the climate finance going to a particular country, connect to other datasets to help assess impact, or see whether funds are being appropriately targeted. Analysis by Oxfam highlights why this matters: in a sample of projects they found that the World Bank could be overstating its climate finance by 40%.

There are ongoing questions around the extent to which climate finance is in competition with traditional development goals, or whether climate finance is illusory and a result of 'greenwashing'. Answering these questions requires project-level data (and elbow grease) and is particularly important for the World Bank given its twin goals of eradicating poverty and boosting shared prosperity.

To fill this gap, Development Initiatives (DI) has assembled the climate coefficients (for both adaptation and mitigation finance) from each individual World Bank project page and added to the list of roughly 22,000 IDA/IBRD projects, allowing users to identify which projects count towards the aggregate climate finance figures, and by how much. In the coming months we’ll be using this data to better understand the nature of World Bank climate finance.

Along with ending poverty, climate change is one of the defining issues of our times and climate finance is essential for helping low- and middle-income countries adapt to its impacts. Something so important needs transparency and high-quality decision-making – that’s why DI is putting its expertise to good use, examining and disseminating climate finance statistics and situating it among other types of development finance.

Download the Excel data file.

We hope that in time the World Bank makes its climate finance data more accessible. Until then, DI would love to hear how you used this dataset.