The government will extend up to $2 million to the World Bank to help strengthen its research on key development issues, including agriculture and climate change.

Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki announced the plan Monday in an opening address at the World Bank’s annual conference on development in Tokyo. The two-day conference is aimed at ensuring efficient, environmentally friendly infrastructure development.

Tanigaki said the $2 million will be funneled to the Knowledge for Change Program, or KCP, a World Bank initiative designed to spur research in economic development.

“Through our participation in KCP, we intend to support the bank’s research and analysis in such areas as agriculture and climate change, Tanigaki said.

“The involvement in KCP will also increase the opportunity for Japanese researchers and institutions to discuss development and conduct joint research with the bank.” Separately, Foreign Minister Taro Aso agreed with visiting World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz during a meeting in Tokyo that Japan and the Washington-based development institution will join hands to help China address its environmental problems, the Foreign Ministry said.

Aso and Wolfowitz said China should deal with environmental issues responsibly for the sake of Asia and the international community, it said.

Wolfowitz has emphasized the issues of climate change and energy efficiency in energy-hungry Asia, along with rural infrastructure and agricultural development, issues to be discussed at the conference.

This year’s meeting is the first to be held in East Asia since its inception in 1988.

In his speech, Wolfowitz called for closer global coordination to strike a balance between meeting the basic infrastructure needs of people in developing countries and preserving the environment they live in, at a time when urban populations have seen sharp increases in recent years, especially in Asia.

“It is estimated that some time next year, for the first time ever, more people will live in urban areas of the world than in rural areas,” he said.

Wolfowitz warned that in the next 30 years, the urban populations of developing countries will double, which he called “unprecedented.”

He urged donors to help African countries boost investment in infrastructure.

“African countries need to invest about 9 percent of their gross domestic product — roughly $40 billion per year — in building new infrastructure and maintaining old facilities if they want to meet the Millennium Development Goals,” he said. “This is more than twice what they have spent over the past 40 years.

“We all know that infrastructure brings more than water, electricity, sanitation, telecommunications, or transportation. Infrastructure brings opportunities, and opportunities to transform lives.”

The Millennium Development Goals, adopted in 2000, include the target of halving extreme poverty, halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education by 2015 to help the world’s poorest populations.

Along with Wolfowitz, Asian Development Bank President Haruhiko Kuroda and Japan International Cooperation Agency President Sadako Ogata are taking part in the symposium, along with policymakers and academics from more than 100 countries.

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