Why Is the World Bank Subsidizing Dirty Coal Power?

Coal Power Plant


If you’ve been following our coverage or have been, say, awake for the past few days, you probably know that there is a fairly monumental climate change conference going on right now in Copenhagen. Delegates from around the world at the COP15 conference are aiming to reach a worldwide deal that reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

But their efforts are being undercut by an unlikely source: the World Bank. The venerable financial institution recently released a draft Energy Strategy for the next decade that includes funding for CO2-spewing coal projects. Shoot us in the foot, why don’t you?

The Energy Strategy recognizes that “Sustainable energy requires concerted efforts over the long term by a wide range of actors in industry, finance, government, and international organizations, but is still being addressed with short-term financing and policy frameworks that are not aligned with the scale of the challenge.” And in 2004, the bank’s Extractive Industries Review recommended an immediate moratorium on coal. But the World Bank somehow still thinks that coal is acceptable under certain conditions since it’s cheap–and in fact,the bank’s funding for coal energy has increased nearly 200% in the past few years.

It’s hard to overstate the negative impact this will have on efforts at the COP15 conference. The fossil fuel emissions from World Bank and International Monetary Fund-financed projects are responsible for 7% of the energy sector’s overall emissions. That won’t stop anytime soon–the World Bank is currently considering a loan for a $3.75 billion South African coal-fired power plant.

But while the World Bank may be a negative influence on climate conservation, the IMF may yet hold out some hope. Financier George Soros recently suggested that the IMF use $100 billion of its gold reserves to back clean energy projects in developing nations. IMF directors reportedly aren’t in love with the idea, but clearly drastic action is necessary to counteract the World Bank’s blunders.

[Via Foreign Policy]

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.