Sustainable Development Practice Group, The World Bank
Author Name Variants
Fields of Specialization
Development Economics, Environmental Economics, Natural Resource Economics, Agricultural Economics, Water Economics, Game Theory
Externally Hosted Work
Last updated November 29, 2023
Richard Damania is the Chief Economist of the Sustainable Development Practice Group. He has held several positions in the World Bank including as Senior Economic Advisor in the Water Practice, Lead Economist in the Africa Region’s Sustainable Development Department, in the South Asia and Latin America and Caribbean Regions of the World Bank. His work has spanned across multiple sectors and has helped the World Bank become an acknowledged thought-leader on matters relating to environment, water and the economy. Prior to joining the World Bank he held positions in academia and has published extensively with over 100 papers in scientific journals.
Publication Search Results
Now showing 1 - 9 of 9
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2022-01-17) Balseca, Esteban ; Cuesta, Jose Antonio ; Damania, Richard ; Feng, Shenghui ; Moon, Jisung ; Rentschler, Jun ; Russ, Jason ; Triyana, Margaret ; Balseca, EstebanThe world has witnessed unparalleled economic progress in the last three decades. But success is not preordained, and several headwinds threaten this hard fought progress. Inequality is leaving many people and subgroups behind and excluding them from enjoying the benefits of this great economic expansion. More recently, the world has awakened to the reality of a new type of risk. The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) struck at a time when the world was healthier and wealthier than ever before. There is little disagreement over the need to enable a recovery that is fairer, safer, and more sustainable. This report describes how these ambitious objectives can be achieved by providing evidence based tools and information to guide countries to spend better and improve policies. It is in this context that this document presents policy guidance to identify and diagnose key development challenges and develop solutions to help countries build better.
Transport, Economic Growth, and Deforestation in the Democratic Republic of Congo: A Spatial Analysis(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2016-01-13) Damania, Richard ; Barra, Alvaro Federico ; Burnouf, Mathilde ; Russ, Jason DanielThe purpose of this study is to demonstrate several techniques which can be used to evaluate pathways to sustainable growth in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) via infrastructure improvement. Decades of conflict and neglect have left the DRC’s transport infrastructure amongst the sparsest and most dilapidated in the world.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2019-12-10) Russ, Jason ; Damania, Richard ; Desbureaux, Sebastien ; Escurra, Jorge ; Rodella, Aude-Sophie ; Zaveri, EshaSalinity in surface waters is on the rise throughout much of the world. Many factors contribute to this change including increased water extraction, poor irrigation management, and sea-level rise. To date no study has attempted to quantify impacts on global food production. In this paper we develop a plausibly causal model to test the sensitivity of global and regional agricultural productivity to changes in water salinity. To do so, we utilize several local and global datasets on water quality and agricultural productivity and a model which isolates the impact of exogenous changes in water salinity on yields. We then train a machine learning model to predict salinity globally in order to simulate average global food losses from 2000-2013. These losses are found to be high, in the range of the equivalent of 124 trillion kilocalories, or enough to feed over 170 million people every day, each year. Global maps building on these results show that pockets of high losses occur on all continents but can be expected to be particularly problematic in regions already experiencing malnutrition challenges.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2019-06) Damania, Richard ; Desbureaux, Sebastien ; Zaveri, EshaMuch micro-econometric evidence suggests that precipitation has wide ranging impacts on vital economic indicators such as agricultural yields, human capital, and even conflict. And yet paradoxically most macro-econometric evidence (especially in the climate economy literature) finds that precipitation has no robust and significant impact on various measures of aggregate economic output. This paper argues that spatial aggregation of weather at the country level explains this result. The paper uses annual subnational gross domestic product data to show a concave relationship between precipitation and local gross domestic product growth between 1990 and 2014. It then demonstrates that when the data are aggregated at larger spatial scales, the impact decreases and eventually vanishes. The impact of precipitation on aggregate economic activity is predominantly felt in developing countries; it is insignificant in developed countries. Agriculture is found to be the dominant pathway. The results have significant consequences for measuring the economic impacts of climate change.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2021-07) Taheripour, Farzad ; Chepeliev, Maksym ; Damania, Richard ; Farole, Thomas ; Lozano Gracia, Nancy ; Russ, Jason DanielCan countries reorient their productive capacity to become more environmentally friendly and inclusive? To investigate this question, this paper uses a standard input-output modeling framework and data from 141 countries and regions to construct a new global data set of employment, value-added, greenhouse gas emissions (disaggregated into carbon dioxide and non-carbon dioxide elements), and air pollution (including nine categories of air pollutants such as fine particulate matter multipliers from supply-side investments. The analysis finds that many of the traditional sectors in agriculture and industry have large employment multipliers, but also generate male dominant, lower skill employment, and tend to have higher emissions multipliers. It is in economies dominated by these sectors that trade-offs to a “greener” transition will emerge most sharply. However, the analysis finds substantial heterogeneity in outcomes, so even in these economies, there exist other sectors with high employment multipliers and low emissions, including sectors that are more conducive to female employment. In addition, the analysis finds a high correlation between industries that generate greenhouse gas emissions, which cause long-term climate impacts, and those that generate air pollution, which have immediate harmful impacts on human health, suggesting that policies could be designed to confer longer climate benefits simultaneously with immediate health improvements. The results confirm some of the findings from recent research and shed new light on opportunities for greening economies.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2015-05) Damania, Richard ; Wheeler, DavidRoad construction has often been viewed as the precursor to deforestation, especially in tropical forests. Traditional responses to such threats have been reactive, with attempts to mitigate impacts through physical measures, or the establishment of protected areas. These approaches often have not been entirely successful, especially in areas where economic potential is significant. This paper seeks to mitigate such conflicts by proposing a proactive approach to development planning and environmental policy. It develops a high-resolution spatial model of road improvement impacts that includes ecological risks and the economics of forest clearing. The approach is implemented by estimating the potential impact of road upgrading on forest clearing and biodiversity in eight Congo Basin countries. The paper demonstrates how the detailed analysis can identify areas of high ecological priority as well as areas at high risk of forest loss. The paper contributes to several aspects of the literature. First, it provides the most recent and reliable estimates of the drivers of deforestation in the Congo Basin, with the latest high-resolution satellite data on forest cover changes. Second, it presents novel estimates of biodiversity threats by creating an index that combines and synthesizes several measures of biodiversity loss and impacts. It then develops an empirical framework for estimating the ecological impacts of road improvement. Finally, the paper illustrates how the empirical framework can be used to preempt impacts and avoid potential ecological damage.
Publication(Washington, DC : World Bank, 2023-06-15) Damania, Richard ; Balseca, Esteban ; de Fontaubert, Charlotte ; Gill, Joshua ; Kim, Kichan ; Rentschler, Jun ; Russ, Jason ; Zaveri, EshaClean air, land, and oceans are critical for human health and nutrition and underpin much of the world’s economy. Yet they suffer from degradation, poor management, and overuse due to government subsidies. "Detox Development: Repurposing Environmentally Harmful Subsidies" examines the impact of subsidies on these foundational natural assets. Explicit and implicit subsidies—estimated to exceed US$7 trillion per year—not only promote inefficiencies but also cause much environmental harm. Poor air quality is responsible for approximately 1 in 5 deaths globally. And as the new analyses in this report show, a significant number of these deaths can be attributed to fossil fuel subsidies. Agriculture is the largest user of land worldwide, feeding the world and employing 1 billion people, including 78 percent of the world’s poor. But it is subsidized in ways that promote inefficiency, inequity, and unsustainability. Subsidies are shown to drive the deterioration of water quality and increase water scarcity by incentivizing overextraction. In addition, they are responsible for 14 percent of annual deforestation, incentivizing the production of crops that are cultivated near forests. These subsidies are also implicated in the spread of zoonotic and vector-borne diseases, especially malaria. Finally, oceans support the world’s fisheries and supply about 3 billion people with almost 20 percent of their protein intake from animals. Yet they are in a collective state of crisis, with more than 34 percent of fisheries overfished, exacerbated by open-access regimes and capacity-increasing subsidies. Although the literature on subsidies is large, this report fills significant knowledge gaps using new data and methods. In doing so, it enhances understanding of the scale and impact of subsidies and offers solutions to reform or repurpose them in efficient and equitable ways. The aim is to enhance understanding of the magnitude, consequences, and drivers of policy successes and failures in order to render reforms more achievable.
Publication(Washington, DC: World Bank, 2023-06-27) Damania, Richard ; Polasky, Stephen ; Ruckelshaus, Mary ; Russ, Jason ; Amann, Markus ; Chaplin-Kramer, Rebecca ; Gerber, James ; Hawthorne, Peter ; Heger, Martin Philipp ; Mamun, Saleh ; Ruta, Giovanni ; Schmitt, Rafael ; Smith, Jeffrey ; Vogl, Adrian ; Wagner, Fabian ; Zaveri, EshaThe great expansion of economic activity since the end of World War II has caused an unprecedented rise in living standards, but it has also caused rapid changes in earth systems. Nearly all types of natural capital—the world’s stock of resources and services provided by nature—are in decline. Clean air, abundant and clean water, fertile soils, productive fisheries, dense forests, and healthy oceans are critical for healthy lives and healthy economies. Mounting pressures, however, suggest that the trend of declining natural capital may cast a long shadow into the future. "Nature’s Frontiers: Achieving Sustainability, Efficiency, and Prosperity with Natural Capital" presents a novel approach to address these foundational challenges of sustainability. A methodology combining innovative science, new data sources, and cutting-edge biophysical and economic models builds sustainable resource efficiency frontiers to assess how countries can sustainably use their natural capital more efficiently. The analysis provides recommendations on how countries can better use their natural capital to achieve their economic and environ mental goals. The report indicates that significant efficiency gaps exist in nearly every country. Closing these gaps can address many of the world’s pressing economic and environmental problems—economic productivity, health, food and water security, and climate change. Although the approach outlined in this report will entail demanding policy reforms, the costs of inaction will be far higher.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2023-11-29) Damania, Richard ; Herrera Garcia , Luis Diego ; Kim, Hyungju ; Viotti, Leonardo ; Zaveri, Esha ; Onder, Stefanie ; Pantoja, ChrissieThe environment has long been the foundation of human flourishing, but its continued degradation is threatening to reverse recent development gains, especially in human health. This paper analyzes the possible complementarity between natural and human capital by linking high-resolution deforestation data with health outcomes for 0.7 million children across 46 countries. Forest loss is often a consequence of economic activities that may confer market and other benefits. At the same time, it can adversely affect the provision of forest ecosystem services and reduce the associated socioeconomic and environmental benefits for rural communities. The net effect is thus ambiguous. The paper focuses on the hydrological services provided by forests and exploits quasi-random variation in deforestation upstream to assess the impacts on waterborne disease outcomes for rural households downstream. The results not only indicate increases in diarrheal disease incidence among children under 5 years old, but also offer new evidence of early-life exposure to deforestation on childhood stunting, a well-known indicator of later-life productivity. A case study for Peru shows similar results for diarrheal disease, but a weaker effect of forest loss on stunting. The paper concludes that maintaining natural capital has the potential to generate meaningful improvements in long-run human capital.