'Chain gang' of UK NGO's chips away at fossil fuel investments

By agency reporter
6 Mar 2011

Climate change campaigners have formed a ‘chain gang’ outside the London headquarters of the World Bank Group to demand that the Bank frees developing countries from fossil fuel investments.

Actions were also taken last week in cities across Europe and in South Africa.

The campaigners from Christian Aid, the World Development Movement, People & Planet and Jubilee Debt Campaign handed in a letter to the Bank demanding that the World Bank stop investing in fossil fuels and that the UK government works to ensure all energy related international finance delivers clean energy that benefits the poorest people.

The World Bank is an international financial institution which provides loans to developing countries. Its main goal is to reduce poverty and it speaks of a vision of sustainable, clean and reliable energy access for all. Yet in the last five years, it has increased funding of coal fired power stations 40-fold.

In a world where climate change is hitting the poorest hardest and exacerbating poverty, campaigners point out that investment in fossil fuels goes against the poverty reduction objectives of the World Bank and must be stopped.

The campaigners are also asking the UK government, a Board member of the World Bank, to play its role. They say that the UK should demand that the World Bank stop investing in fossil fuels. The government should also work to ensure all international finance for energy goes to sustainable, low carbon projects that benefit poor people, instead of exacerbating both poverty and climate change.

Later this month the World Bank will publish the first draft of its new energy strategy. The campaigners see this as an opportunity for the Bank to demonstrate that it is committed to lifting people out of poverty and to a low-carbon future.

Alison Doig, Senior Adviser Climate Change at Christian Aid, said: "Climate change is already devastating lives and livelihoods in developing countries, and predictions are that it will get much worse. Yet the World Bank investment in fossil fuel projects continues to rise rapidly, with $6.6 billion invested in fossil fuel projects last year."

She continued: "There are over 1.5 billion people worldwide with no access to electricity and more than 2.5 billion people cook on dirty solid fuels (wood, dung and charcoal). But none of the huge fossil fuel projects financed by the World Bank in recent years have increasing energy access as their objective. The new energy strategy cannot be a green cover up for continuing business as usual at the World Bank. It must free us from fossil fuels."

Murray Worthy, policy officer at the World Development Movement said: "The World Bank has a long track record of getting its policies for developing countries wrong. It must stop providing finance, including loans, for dirty energy projects. The UK government should be promoting and financing renewable energy projects in developing countries. And must also ensure that all projects are undertaken with full participation of local communities to ensure that they really benefit from it."

Nick Dearden, Director of Jubilee Debt Campaign, added: "In South Africa, World Bank loans for a coal power station will subsidise major companies whilst pushing up electricity prices for ordinary people. This burdens the poor with an unjust debt, whilst helping to fuel the climate crisis."

Louise Hazan, climate change campaigner for People & Planet, summed up: "It's time for the World Bank to ditch dirty development and invest in a clean and safe energy future for all."

[Ekk/3]

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