World Bank faces criticism after its failure to stop funding for fossil fuels

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Ayse Kelce

A coalition of civil society representing 112 organizations sent a letter to the World Bank on Oct. 18, criticizing its funding for fossil fuel projects in contrast to its claims to take action and increase budget to combat climate change in 2018.

Urgewald, a nonprofit environmental and human rights organization based in Germany, released a report on the World Bank Group’s investments targeting fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil.

On Dec. 15, 2018, WBG announced new climate targets for 2021 to 2025 during the 24th annual United Nations Climate Change Conference of Parties in Katowice, Poland.

“We at the World Bank embrace climate action. Since 2015, the World Bank Group doubled our climate finance from $10 billion to $20 billion, exceeding our 2020 targets. … Our new targets for the next five years are for the World Bank Group to finance $200 billion to help countries undertake ambitious climate action. … It is up to each one of us to do everything we can to address climate change. If we do not, our children and grandchildren will not forgive us,” said Kristalina Georgieva, Chief Executive Officer of the World Bank, about WBG’s future plans.

However, the recent letter addressed to the World Bank revealed current numbers that contradicted the environment-friendly remarks and plans promised by the WBG.

The letter brought attention to the $12 billion in project finance for 88 fossil fuel projects in 38 countries, funded by the WBG, in addition to the assistance in development of fossil fuels through policy programs in at least 28 countries, including the development of coal in six countries.

“We call on the World Bank to play a leading role among MDBs by committing to end all support for fossil fuels by the end of 2020, and signal the immediate shift to a carbon neutral world that is necessary to stabilize the global climate,” the letter said.

The signatories of the letter called on the World Bank to end the funding for fossil fuel projects, phase out lending for fossil fuels and devote at least 40% of finance to climate by 2020. 

They also demanded the private sector arm of the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, and its financial intermediaries divest from all fossil fuels, not just coal.

Civil society representatives who contributed to the letter reacted to the current fossil fuel
projects funded by WBG.

“The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have been spectacularly slow to wake up to the reality of climate change. The Bank continues to fund destructive oil and mining projects in the Global South, that not only fuel the climate crisis and escalate inequality but rob women and indigenous people of their lands and livelihoods,” said Wangari Kinoti, policy advisor on women’s rights in ActionAid International.

Augustine Njamnshi, coordinator of the African Coalition for Sustainable Energy and Access, also condemned the actions of the WBG by saying, “Beyond the greenhouse gas emissions of fossil fuel business lays the heavy health, social and cultural burdens that local communities carry on their backs. The World Bank cannot afford to continue to invest in a sector that negatively impacts the lives of these communities.”