ON Tuesday, a group of climate activists, the Glasgow Action Team, frowned at the World Bank on its sustained investment in fossil fuels, despite the global climate change agreement adopted to reduce carbon emissions.
During a zoom media conference, the activists – Jonah Gbemre, Murphy Akiri and Jake Hess – told the World Bank to transition from rhetoric to actions and reform its climate policy.
The group said that as nations commemorate the 2022 World Habitat Day, it was important to drive public attention to the growing inequalities and vulnerabilities caused by climate change, conflicts and, most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The World Bank was set up after World War II to rebuild economies, and its stated goals are to end extreme poverty by 2030 and increase prosperity. The Bank’s failure to tackle climate change is the latest challenge where the Bank has come short and failed to deliver for low-income countries,” the group stated.
According to the activists, since the Paris Agreement in 2015, the World Bank has provided about $12 billion in direct project finance to fossil fuels projects in 35 countries, accounting for more than any other multilateral development bank.
“The figure does not include billions more in support of fossil fuels through financial intermediaries, the biggest culprit being the commercial lending arm of the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation (IFC).”
Described as a false narrative, the group punctured the claim that fossil fuels would bring prosperity to the people, despite yearnings from Africans for clean and community-owned energy.
They also described as ‘harmful’ the idea of Net Zero, where big polluters continued to pollute the environment while promising what they assumed as unrealistic tree planting schemes that could only feasibly lead to land grabs.
“The World Bank is operating with impunity. The vast proportion of the World Bank’s lending and other programme portfolios remain immune from legal action, as does the IMF.
“This means that its contradictions are not held accountable. For example, it continues to invest in fossil fuels driving climate change, while trying to fix the problems caused by climate change, such as investing $10 million into reversing the degradation of Lake Chad.”
In February, the World Bank announced plans to support Nigeria in developing a Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) system, despite controversies surrounding the technology.
Some had argued the innovation, which claimed to store carbon underground to ‘mhelp Nigeria reach its emissions targets, was unproven and, thus, should be discarded.
The Center for International Environmental Law, a US-based body, described CCUS as “processes that collect carbon dioxide generated by high-emitting activities – such as coal, and gas-fired power production or plastics manufacturing – and then transport those captured emissions to sites where they are either used for industrial processes or stored underground.”
Recall that in his speech at the last UN Climate talks, President Buhari announced that Nigeria would become net zero by 2060, saying “the government is looking for partners, technology, and finance to make cleaner and efficient use of all available resources for a more stable transition in energy markets.”
However, the activists suggested that such technologies should be scientifically proven, given the number of false solutions promoted by lobbyists and financiers.
“The science is clear: The world is on a countdown to climate catastrophe if it does not cut carbon emissions. It’s now or never. The World Bank is a major investor of public money into energy projects and sets the norms for other multilateral lenders and crowds in private finance, so it is essential that those running the World Bank acknowledge the real-world impacts of its funding,” the group added.
They advised the World Bank to genuinely help reduce carbon emissions by shifting financing from fossil fuels to renewables and help ensure the new infrastructure benefits local communities.
The Bank was urged to also suspend the use of public money to bankroll dirty polluters, they asked the World Bank to align all its policies, programmes and projects into a 1.5-degree roadmap with poverty alleviation at its heart.
“Prioritise investment in Global South renewable energy projects, with civil society input, toward publicly owned, democratically controlled systems that serve the common good instead of private profit.
“Stop hoarding reserves and mobilise $1 trillion in new, genuinely green finance.”
Other recommendations were for the Bank to halt an extractive model financing to deliver a just transition through investments that would benefit the majority on the poverty line.
“Raise ambitions so that half of all World Bank financing is on climate adaptation and mitigation, given the scale and urgency of the crisis. Candidates for World Bank Leadership should be accountable and committed to scientific evidence,” the group noted.
Olugbenga heads the Investigations Desk at The ICIR. Do you have a scoop? Shoot him an email at [email protected] Twitter Handle: @OluAdanikin