As the Asia Clean Energy Forum (ACEF) 2021 gets underway, the NGO Forum on ADB, along with our member civil society organizations and allied communities, advance the following statement – providing a brief overview of our collective concerns with the ADB's recent draft Energy Policy, and the inherent challenges of the opaque consultation process surrounding the Energy Policy Review to date, including as integrated into the ACEF schedule.
This statement, therefore, is explicitly articulated concerning the three main pillars of ACEF 2021: "technology roadmaps to achieve the NDCs, impact of COVID-19 and green recovery, and consultations to make the ADB Energy Policy more relevant".
On Technology Roadmaps
We note with concern that within ACEF, achieving borrowing member country ambitions for carbon neutrality by 2050/decarbonization is treated primarily as a question of finding the right mix of techno-fixes that can be advanced through a process of market liberalization. Yielding control to the private sector for developing energy solutions is suggested as the most suitable way to launch into the commercial deployment of experimental carbon capture technologies, wide-scale reliance of urban populations on EVs with accompanying charging infrastructure, meeting the service needs of vast industrial parks, and putting the systems in place to enable regional power trade. However, these options rely on the rollout of large-scale infrastructure and, in several examples featured within ACEF sessions, promote collaboration with a number of primary corporate interests implicated in gross human rights violations and significant environmental destruction (e.g., proposals to partner with Shell in Myanmar and engage in initiatives with Shell, Total, BP and other oil majors involved in trials of carbon capture technology). They also serve to reinforce the ADB's current lopsided focus on meeting the needs of resource-intensive industries, rather than on appropriately scaling solutions for the 'last mile projects,' as noted in the recent report by ADB's Internal Evaluation Department on energy. Furthermore, the land required for widespread commercial application of carbon capture (yet to be proven technologically possible), the resources needed to enable mass EV usage across the region, and the populated, forest, and river landscapes that span across border zones, mean that such initiatives can only be expected to lead to widespread dispossession and unsustainable resource-intensive practices. Ultimately then, the blueprints being suggested for the future within ACEF 2021 fail to be grounded in a comprehensive assessment of what is required to meet the real day-to-day needs of communities, let alone provide forward-looking roadmaps in line with what climate science and a rights-based approach requires at this juncture.
On the Relevance of the Draft Energy Policy
We acknowledge that the draft Energy Policy formalizes a withdrawal of financing for coal projects as recommended by the ADB's own Independent Evaluation Department (2020) but leaves open a range of options for supporting new and expanded infrastructure for gas (especially LNG), geothermal, large-scale dams and incinerator projects. The environmental, social, and economic burdens associated with gas-powered generation along with the required infrastructure build-out are too high to rely on it as a bridge fuel across Asia and the Pacific. Indeed, in the draft Energy Policy, the ADB suggests that LNG infrastructure is so costly that other options may be pursued, including but not limited to large hydro and waste-to-energy incinerator projects. Yet, these too are typically riddled with the exact high social and environmental costs, thereby undermining possibilities for meaningful just transitions within borrowing member countries. Such investments risk jeopardizing international efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius in line with IPCC pathway 1, as well as the ecosystem-based resilience of communities dependent on coastal, riparian, land, and forest-based ecologies.
Equally concerning is the fact that the draft Energy Policy fails to provide any assurances in relation to how private sector operations and dispersed investments made via financial intermediaries will (i) avoid being implicated in coal, oil, or gas projects, thereby jeopardizing Paris climate commitments, and (ii) ensure compliance with the ADB's own social and environmental safeguards.
Moving forward, we urge the ADB to take the current ADB Energy Policy Review as an opportunity to gear its support towards a clear transition pathway, bolstering the shift from coal towards reliance on appropriately scaled solar and wind-powered renewable energy.
On the Lack of Meaningful Consultation and Transparency
Since the release of the ADB Draft Energy Policy a month ago, on May 15th, the ADB SDCC has not made any information publicly accessible detailing the timeline for consultations or the process by which input will be duly taken into account before final revisions are made. This means that civil society groups from across Asia and beyond have no clear understanding of when and how the ADB management will take our comments and critiques into account before the final policy is released later this year. We also note that there is no way for input to be made via encrypted PGP/GPG options that would allow for a greater degree of digital security for civil society groups operating within a range of challenging contexts.
Adding to the general lack of transparency surrounding the consultation process are questions regarding the content and information expected to feature in staff guidance notes related to the screening criteria for project financing. Without access to drafts of these guidance notes (e.g., for Gas, Hydro, and WTE funding), the considerations and standards for selecting these projects remain unknown. To date, no commitments have been forthcoming from the ADB to make these documents publicly available - subject to scrutiny and input - before finalization.
Future ADB energy investments must be prioritized for renewable energy and community microgrids, not fossil fuel expansion.
The ADB is continuing its financing for fossil gas power plants, including, amongst others, considerable investments in the controversial Turkmenistan - Afghanistan - Pakistan - India (TAPI) gas pipeline project. We also note with due concern the track record of the Bank in this regard, for example, in relation to support for the Rupsha 800 MW Combined Cycle Power Plant in Bangladesh, which was advanced despite its proximity to the Sundarban Mangrove Forest while threatening the very livelihoods of approximately 1,500 fisherfolk communities due to the effluent waste. Furthermore, although the ADB touts waste-to-energy projects as clean, renewable energy options -- including those in the Maldives and Cebu -- on-the-ground evidence has revealed that these operations pose significant health and environmental risks, contaminating air, water, and soil in fragile coastal ecosystems that remain among the most climate-vulnerable sites worldwide.
Overall, the Forum and its member groups continue to be concerned about the systematic failure of the Bank to undertake meaningful consultations with local communities on project planning, the lack of pre-project information disclosure -- in particular when financing is rolled out via bonds and other indirect modalities of investing -- and the lack of human rights due diligence assessment from the onset. These are critical issues that have led to community resistance and threats and reprisals against those who raise project-related questions or concerns.
Significantly, there is an urgent gap in investments in the clean energy infrastructure required to support meeting universal public health needs. Yet, according to the Forum's own assessment of the Bank's track record from 2010-2020, this is a critical area that has seen nothing but neglect. In effect, then, there is a glaring disconnect between what is being financed within the Bank's current energy portfolio and what is required for authentic, sustainable development outcomes.
Spurring Onwards Just Community-Driven Energy Transitions Aligned with 'Real Zero' Paris Climate Goals: COVID - 19 Recovery Pathway
In recognizing that this year's ACEF incorporates a pillar on the impacts of COVID 19 and the need for a 'green recovery,' we note that green, just recovery requires the financing of projects appropriately scaled to meet the needs of communities, grounded in robust community consultations from the outset, and accompanied by mechanisms to avert reprisals of those who give input or raise critical questions and concerns. Relying on extracting the planet's finite resources is neither sustainable nor rights-based, as it is communities that depend on these commons for their very survival.
In this context, we reiterate the Oxford Working Paper findings on Post COVID Green Recovery. This working paper surveyed 231 financial experts, central bank officials, and asset managers from G20 countries to assess 300 stimulus policies in relation to the associated climate impacts. The survey revealed that only 4 percent of stimulus packages could be considered green, while 92 percent were categorized as 'colorless' (maintaining status quo). The paper further identified that for desired economic multipliers, critical investment areas to focus on for middle-income and lower-income countries in the future include healthcare investment and clean energy infrastructure compared to traditional transport and infrastructure or support for large corporations involved in new and new and ongoing fossil fuel development. It was further identified that for a USD 1 million investment in renewable energy projects, 7.49 jobs could be generated, while similar investments in energy efficiency projects could generate 7.72 jobs, compared to 2.65 jobs from investing in fossil fuels. The documentation provided in this paper stands among a number of recent, globally relevant evidence-based studies that demonstrate the potential of economic recovery through a clean energy future.
Against the backdrop of a significant human health crisis and the ongoing climate crisis, this year's ACEF is the time when the ADB can be expected to demonstrate its readiness to move forward with an approach to energy finance that will set Asia on the path of Paris 1.5 alignment. In this context, we urge the ADB to undertake the Energy Policy Review process to establish a portfolio that steers investments towards a future in which the transition to renewable energy will be timely, just, and inclusive, leaving coal, gas, and oil in the ground.
To do so, the ADB must ensure that community voices and civil society are meaningfully heard and that their views are incorporated into the ADB Energy Policy; as in the end, they are the ones whose lives are at stake because of the ADB's operations. We hope that false solutions such as WTE incinerators, large hydro, and carbon capture are abandoned in the ADB's 2021 Energy Policy, and accordingly, the ADB proves it can - and will - support a just, equitable, forward-looking green recovery.
Endorsed by the following organizations –
350 Pilipinas, Philippines
350.org Asia, Asia
Aksi! for gender, social and ecological justice, Indonesia
An organization for Socio Economic Development, Bangladesh
Asian Energy Network, Philippines
Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD), Regional / Asia
Bangladesh Working Group on External Debt, Bangladesh
CEE Bankwatch Network, Czech Republic
Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development, Philippines
Centre For Environmental Justice, Sri Lanka
Chairperson Oil Workers' Rights Protection Organization Public Union, Azerbaijan
Change Initiatives, Bangladesh
CLEAN (Coastal Livelihood and Environmental Action Network), Bangladesh
Climate Watch Thailand, Thailand
Collective for Economic Justice, India
Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt (CADTM), India
Community Empowerment and Social Justice Network (CEMSOJ), Nepal
Community Resource Centre, Thailand
EarthRights International, Mekong Region
Environmental public society, Armenia
Equitable Cambodia, Cambodia
Food first Information & Action Network (FIAN), Sri Lanka
Freedom from Debt Coalition, Philippines
Fresh Eyes, United Kingdom
Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) - Asia Pacific, Asia Pacific region
Green Advocates International, Liberia
Green Alternative, Georgia
Grootouders voor het Klimaat, Belgium
Integrated Community & Industrial Development Initiative, Bangladesh
Initiative for Right View, Bangladesh
Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), India
International Accountability Project, USA
International Association of People's Lawyers, Australia
International Rivers, United States
Kilos Maralita, Philippines
Life Haven Center for Independent Living, Philippines
Law and Policy of Sustainable Development, Vietnam
Mangrove Action Project, USA
Nash Vek, Kyrgyzstan
Oil Change International, United States
Oil Workers' Rights Protection Organization Public Union, Baku,Azerbaijan
Oxfam in Cambodia, Cambodia
Oyu Tolgoi Watch, Mongolia
People's Health Movement Nepal, Nepal
Peoples Development Institute, Philippines
Progressive Plantation Workers Union (PPWU), India
Public Services International, India
Rivers without Boundaries, Russia
Rivers without Boundaries Coalition, Mongolia
Sri Lanka Nature Group, Sri Lanka
University of the Philippines Center for Integrative and Development Studies, Program on Alternative Development (UP CIDS AltDev), Philippines
urgewald e.V., Germany
WomanHealth Philippines, Philippines
Youth Group on Protection of Environment, Tajikistan
Youthnet for climate justice Bangladesh, Bangladesh
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