Civil Society Groups Speak Out at ADB Annual Meeting: Just Energy Transitions Require Recognition of the Urgency of the Climate Crisis, Respect, Transparency and Access to Remedy
May 2 2023, Incheon, Korea - On the opening day of the Asian Development Bank’s Annual Meeting, civil society delegates asserted critical questions and fundamental concerns about the models for energy transition being presented by the ADB and corporate sector.
During the civil society session titled, “Challenging Ways Forward: Asserting Communities' Considerations on Just Transition,” spokespeople from regional alliances, including NGO Forum on ADB, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives-Asia Pacific (GAIA-AP), and Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD), along with nationally based groups, such as the Indus Consortium from Pakistan, and the Philippines-based Centre for Ecology, Energy and Development (CEED) raised critical perspectives on the ADB’s support for resource intensive infrastructure projects in the name of the energy transition, including waste to energy incinerators, hydroelectric dams and fuel switching schemes involving reliance on fossil gas. They highlighted the concerns of local communities and workers who have been – and continue to be – negatively affected as a result of ADB’s direct project-based loans, equity investments and technical assistance. During the panel session, ADB Vice President of East Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia, Ahmed Saeed was also present to provide remarks and responses.
“To date, in every case where the ADB is supporting ‘coal to clean’ energy initiatives, whether in Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Pakistan, Kazakhstan or India there remains a lack of transparency, a severe gap in communication with concerned organizations advocating for the rights of communities, informal labourers as well as formal workers, a serious lack of attention to crucial questions related to remedying social, economic, cultural and environmental, harm, as well as no evident response to the context of heightened reprisal risks. This is particularly problematic given the constrained civic space for people to raise critical questions about these plans given the vested interests at stake,” explained Tanya Roberts-Davis, Just Transitions Advocacy Coordinator at the Manila based International Secretariat of the NGO Forum on ADB. She continued: “It is incumbent upon the ADB Board and Management to address these issues head-on rather than conveniently sidestepping them and carrying on business as usual.”
As Fiza Qureshi of the Indus Consortium affirmed: “We’ve seen that the pre-feasibility studies for the proposed Energy Transition Mechanism in Pakistan – along with associated analysis, are not uploaded on the ADB’s website, blocking the possibility for interested civil society groups and especially communities around coal projects to engage in any meaningful way in discussions about plans that will affect their future. A just energy transition mechanism that prioritizes the poor and vulnerable communities and groups would require transparency, timely data disclosure in local languages and inclusion of their opinion at all stages. It would also take into account aspects related to the impacts of coal projects on environmental and land degradation, air and ground water pollution and the toll on peoples’ livelihoods, health and well-being, most especially for women.” She also called on the ADB to explicitly end its consideration of gas as transition fuel, and to incorporate it accordingly as a high carbon emitting source into the ETM pre-feasibility assessments.
Gerry Arances of the Philippine-based Center for Energy, Ecology and Development further asserted: "The ADB should acknowledge once and for all that there is no place for new gas in a just energy transition. There is no justice in a power sector that ties consumers to decades more of high electricity prices, communities to continued pollution, or countries like the Philippines that have been battered far too much already by catastrophic climate disasters to greater climate vulnerability fueled by fossil-based energy. The greatest service that ADB can render is to ensure a 1.5°C aligned transition to 100% renewable energy at the soonest time possible for its member countries. No detours, no false solutions."
Lidy Nacpil of the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development stated: “Fossil gas expansion is toxic and unsustainable for Asia. It will not be a solution to energy access and the energy crisis but would instead exacerbate climate change, contrary to what gas energy investors and financiers like the ADB, are claiming. New gas projects will lock in greenhouse gas emissions for years, delay the clean energy transition, and undermine energy security and sustainable development.”
Mayang Azurin of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives-Asia Pacific (GAIA-AP) highlighted and reiterated the position of GAIA-AP member organization, the Alliance of Indian Wastepickers – that a just transition for wastepickers would include the end of support for incineration plants. She elaborated further, explaining: “The continued burning of recyclable wastes for Waste-to-Energy incineration destroys millions of wastepickers’ livelihoods and undermines the potential for inclusive circularity of natural resources and climate resiliency. Therefore, beyond ending support for building out WtE, equally important is that wastepickers need to be recognized and integrated in decentralized waste management”.
Concluded Rayyan Hassan, Executive Director of the NGO Forum on ADB:
“We immediately have to turn the ship on how we frame the notion of Just Transition. In the context of Asia, a cold technical approach to transition will not work. The workers in fossil fuel plants, the local economy built around them, the women and children dependent on the projects and the economy all have to be factored into the just transition plan. This can only be done by bringing local communities into the decision making processes. This is not a time to experiment with schemes and designs which are not responsive and accountable to local people and the environment. The ADB has to get out of corporatizing climate solutions as the current ETM stands, and start being conscious of the vulnerability of the locality of where they are operating.”
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