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CSOs think ADB can do more than just coal exit

MANILA, June 17 – NGO Forum on ADB, an Asian-led network of over 250 civil society organization (CSOs) around the world, is demanding the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to ensure that community and civil society voices are meaningfully heard and that their views are incorporated into the Bank's Energy Policy.

Earlier this week, the group collectively decided to disengage from the session designated within Asian Clean Energy Forum (ACEF) for CSOs to discuss the Bank's energy policy.

Since the release of the ADB Draft Energy Policy a month ago, the ADB Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department (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.

Vidya Dinker from the Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF) and Growthwatch, India, says that "There is not even a respectable semblance of inclusivity or transparency of process in the ACEF, despite it being the big event for them to both showcases and have meaningful consultations on their energy policy draft. We do not see any reason to participate in such a charade."

Civil society groups worldwide have no clear understanding of when and how the ADB management will take comments and critiques into account before the final policy is released later this year.

Rayyan Hassan, executive director of NGO Forum on ADB, stated that "based on an assessment of the limitations created by a non-interactive technical platform, lack of lead-up time, and unclear details about key procedural issues, we had concluded the only practical option available at this time would be to make this regrettable but firm decision." Hassan also added that "civil society groups and communities from across Central, South, and Southeast Asia do not consider the review process a transparent, inclusive, and meaningful opportunity for a consultation."

The Forum network pointed out the systematic failure of the Bank to undertake meaningful consultations with local communities on project planning, lack of pre-project information disclosure, and the lack of human rights due to 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.

Regarding the draft energy policy, the network acknowledges the Bank's formal withdrawal of financing for coal projects as recommended by the ADB's own Independent Evaluation Department (2020). However, it leaves open a range of options for supporting new and expanded infrastructure for gas (especially LNG), complex geothermals, destructive large-scale dams, and harmful 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. 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.

Gerry Arances from the Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development, Philippines, explained that "such investments risk jeopardizing international efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius in line with IPCC pathway 1 and the ecosystem-based resilience of communities dependent on coastal, riparian, land, and forest-based ecologies." He also added, "Equally concerning is the fact that the draft Energy Policy fails to provide any assurances concerning how private sector operations and dispersed investments made via financial intermediaries will avoid being implicated in coal, oil, or gas projects that would jeopardize Paris climate commitments and ensure compliance with the ADB's own social and environmental safeguards."

The Forum network urges 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. The group also demands the Bank 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.

Lastly, NGO Forum on ADB also emphasized that false solutions such as WTE incinerators, large hydro, and carbon capture should be discarded in the ADB's 2021 Energy Policy, and accordingly, the ADB proves it can - support a just, equitable, forward-looking green recovery.

There is not even a respectable semblance of inclusivity or transparency of process in the ACEF, despite it being the big event for them to both showcases and have meaningful consultations on their energy policy draft. We do not see any reason to participate in such a charade.

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