World Bank should clean up its act, say UK MPs

By Uthra Radhakrishnan
Published: Monday 18 July 2011

A committee of British Parliamentarians has called for a halt on World Bank financing high emission coal power stations in developing countries. They say such aid will undermine global attempts to reduce carbon emissions and poverty.

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A report released on June 29 by the House of Commons environmental audit committee on the effectiveness of overseas aid on environmental protection, says the US-based financial institution heavily funds fossil fuel power projects. “The bank is not the most appropriate channel for future UK climate finance. It undermines our low-carbon objectives,” says the report (see ‘US Bank uses carbon smokescreen’, Down To Earth, July 31, 2010).

In 2010, the bank set a record in terms of its fossil fuel funding, totalling US $6.6 billion, a 116 per cent increase from 2009. Of this, US $4.4 billion was invested in coal. Surya Sethi, former climate change negotiator for India does not agree with the MPs. If the World Bank succumbs to such calls of the UK, it would lead to a dilution of the bank’s mandate, he says. He notes, “the World Bank is primarily a development bank, with development issues as its key mandate.” If coal power plants are continuing to be built elsewhere in the world, why not in the developing countries? Sethi asks. Girish Sant, co-founder of Prayas, a non-profit energy group, concurs, “The developed countries have no moral right to stop access to coal power projects in developing countries whose emissions remain much below their share.” The developed countries are building coal-fired power plants and buying carbon credits to meet their Kyoto Protocol targets. Sant says the developed world should pay incremental costs that will arise in implementing renewable energy technologies in the developing countries.

While the MPs are asking the UK government to stop channelising funds in development of coal-based power plants, Britain itself has been less ambitious in committing to domestic greenhouse gases (GHG) reduction targets. This was evident at the EU Parliament on July 5 when UK Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted against a GHG reduction target of 30 per cent against 1990 baseline levels to keep the target at modest 20 per cent.

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