World Bank climate opportunity warning

Posted: 20 April 2006

Friends of the Earth has warned that the World Bank's Spring Meeting looks set to steer energy policy in the wrong direction.

A new report, to be adopted at the Spring Meetings of the World Bank and IMF in Washington on April 22 and 23, acknowledges the severe impacts of climate change on developing countries but still puts forward plans to invest in fossil fuel projects.

The Group of Eight (G8) richest nations at their Gleneagles Summit last July invited the World Bank to propose a plan for a sustainable energy future and to accelerate investment in these technologies. Gordon Brown proposed the US$20 billion fund for clean energy in his Budget speech to the Commons on 22 March.

The World Bank's 'Clean Energy and Development: Towards An Investment Framework,' report acknowledges that just the cost of adapting to climate change is likely to be between 10 and 40 billion dollars per year. But instead of responding to those needs, the World Bank plans to continue funding substantial amounts of dirty fossil fuel projects. In 2005, only 10 per cent of the Bank's energy financing went to renewable energy or energy efficiency.

Friends of the Earth International's Climate Campaigner Catherine Pearce said: "The proposals being put forward by the World Bank show a lack of ambition in developing clean energy projects and fail to re-direct financing away from existing fossil fuel sources. Most crucially they will not deliver sustainable energy to the two billion people who currently do not have access to a power supply.

"The World Bank seems to be more interested in the most environmentally and socially damaging projects, such as nuclear, large dams and so-called 'clean coal'. It is widely understood that these technologies will not help to bring people out of poverty, which is the World Bank's core mission."

The Bank is proposing to combine efforts under the framework on both alternative energy sources and adaptation to climate change. Rich countries urgently need to step forward to provide resources for sustainable energy services and, separately, to help the most vulnerable communities and countries adapt to climate change. A combination of the two implies that similar funding mechanisms are being considered. For an equitable approach to climate change, Friends of the Earth believes a separate funding system for adaptation would be required.

Two billion people currently have no access to energy services. Friends of the Earth is calling for the Introduction of clean, affordable, decentralised renewable energy services which can help alleviate poverty, reduce regional and local air and water pollution, generate jobs and income and empower local communities.

Funded energy projects should be subject to input and approval by local communities, should be carried out by appropriate institutions that will be responsive to civil society, and should have clear, ambitious commitments with targets and timetables, the organisation said.