After two big announcements made by the World Bank (WB) this week during their Annual Meeting in Bali, Indonesia, NGO Forum on ADB, an Asian led network of over 250 civil society organizations (CSO) around the world will still not put their guards down in monitoring the issue of coal and other fossil fuel projects financed by the Bank, especially those made in partnership with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
NGO Forum expressed its concerns on the deepening relationship between the WBG and AIIB after the two banks signed a memorandum of understanding “to strengthen cooperation and knowledge sharing between the institutions” last year, at the closing ceremony of the WBG Spring Meeting in Washington DC.
The network sees that the cooperation between the two banks will lead to a race to the bottom in terms of environmental and social protections because of the leniency of the multilateral development banks (MDB) towards infrastructure projects despite the announcement made by the WB that it will “ban new direct funding to coal plants except in rare circumstances”
THE PROMISE OF BEING CLEAN AND GREEN
During the 3rd AIIB Annual Meeting in Mumbai, India, NGO Forum demanded that the Chinese led bank fulfill its promise of being clean and green, this is after finding out that the Bank together with the WBG has funded several fossil fuel projects, including the Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline, Myingyan gas power project in Myanmar, and most recently through Public-Private Partnerships, the Bhola IPP gas power plant in Bangladesh.
Hassan Mehedi, chief executive director of Coastal Livelihood and Environmental Action Network (CLEAN), a grassroots organization based in Khulna, Bangladesh stated that the Bhola IPP gas project endangers vulnerable variety of animals in the area, including several species of fish at a nearby body of water, the Meghna Estuary, fanning out towards the Bay of Bengal. He also added that apart from environmental problems “there are serious human rights violations particularly with religious minorities who are now victims of land grabbing”.
The WBG on the other hand announced that it will “ban new direct funding to coal plants except in rare circumstances”. The policy however does not cover the Bank’s indirect lending, Rayyan Hassan, executive director of NGO Forum on ADB stated that “this could be a loophole for the WBG to support fossil fuel projects, just like how the AIIB used the International Financing Corporation (IFC) Emerging Asia Fund to indirectly finance the coal-mine expansion of Shwe Taung Cement plant in Myanmar”.
Hassan stated that the two Banks explicitly express their support towards the Paris Climate Agreement and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals but its lending portfolios tells a different story, “MDBs should take concrete steps to address the climate crisis, by shifting investments from harmful fossil fuels towards sustainable renewable energy and to support energy access for poor communities” he added.