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The ACEF is neither Asian nor Clean

Updated: Jun 21, 2021

We, Representatives of South Asian Civil Society are boycotting the Asia Clean Energy Forum (ACEF) being organized by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in association with United States Assistance for International Development (USAID) and Korea Energy Agency (KEA).

The ACEF itself has its own identity crisis. Alongside the ADB, USAID is one of two co-organizers of the ACEF, while 5 out of 7 donor agencies of the ACEF are from northern countries. This bias towards the richer northern countries is also reflected in the workshop and side events lined up. Community led, decentralized renewable energy systems are not included in the agenda while there is a long list related with technology, investments and policy reform.

The ADB regularly organizes the Asia Clean Energy Forum (ACEF) while their hands remain dirty with their fossil fuel investments and commitments. ADB has been promoting a private-led fossil fuel energy system in Asia, especially the South Asian countries. According to its annual report 2020, ADB has invested USD 33.76 billion in the Energy sector of South Asia which is 25.77% of its total investment in the region. Out of the total energy investment, only 2.13% has been invested in renewables, while 61.93% is towards fossil fuels and 34.21% for transmission and distribution.

ADB is still financing the devastating Jamshoro Coal Power Plant in Pakistan, Upper Trishuli-1 Hydropower Project in Nepal, Rupsha LNG Based Power Plant in Bangladesh and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Power Generation to Diversify Energy Mix Project in Sri Lanka which are not only emitting excessive greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, but also destroying the national economy, local environment and livelihoods. In India, ADB is promoting northern corporations like Goldman Sach, CDPQ, PROPARCO etc. in the guise of promoting Renewables.

It is after the tireless efforts of various people’s movements and civil society organizations, that the Asian Development Bank (ADB) finally decided to end their investments in coal. The decades-long struggle of the climate and social justice movements celebrated this as a victory of our collective action.

But the ADB uses this opportunity to brand itself as a prophet of clean energy while even their own coal divestment declaration is not ambitious enough to mention an immediate and complete phase-out of coal. Their Energy Policy too, is still far from being clean. The draft energy policy allows retrofitting of existing coal plants and considers funding fossil gas especially LNG and Waste to Energy (WTE) which are just other forms of dirty energy.

The ADB has used the COVID-19 pandemic situation to avoid robust and meaningful consultation. While marginalized communities - including but not limited to ethnic minorities, Indigenous Peoples, people with disabilities, women’s organizations, LGBTs and Dalit populations - are systematically excluded from the consultation process. At the same time, the ADB has been implementing a number of energy related projects in different countries across South Asia. Indeed, according to the ADB's own Independent Evaluation of the sector, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have been among the top five countries at the receiving end of ADB's energy-related loans and advice over the past decade. Yet, if the ADB is intent upon partnering with our governments and the private sector to roll these projects out, why can’t they organize meaningful policy-based consultations with the communities?

Illustrative of this approach is the South Asia regional session featured at this year’s ACEF, “Digitalization of the Electricity Utilities in South Asia” (Wed. 16th June). It appears completely out of touch with the realities of communities within the region in terms of what would be appropriately scaled energy solutions, promoting EVs, liberalization of electricity markets and ever increasing private sector participation in electricity distribution. We note that panelists during this session come from private and government sectors, including for example, the Global Smart Energy Federation (India), Ministry of Power (India), Bangladesh Power Development Board (Bangladesh) Ceylon Electricity Board (Sri Lanka) and Electricity Regulatory Commission (Nepal). Meanwhile, no air time is allocated for any representation from civil society groups or networks.

To date, there has been no evident transparency in the process of ‘consultation’ designated within the ACEF, and no possibility for people from the region to give meaningful input within a framework of accountability, when we know our perspectives are being accounted for.

As such, we demand that:

  • Instead of posturing on clean energy, the ADB must first come up with a roadmap that categorically and clearly lays out the path towards an Asia that is 100% powered by renewable energy. It is only through this that we can finally say that the Energy Forum they regularly organize is truly Asian and Clean.

  • An Energy Policy through meaningful consultation with the affected and diversified communities on the ground and civil society at national, regional and global level.

Otherwise, this Asia Clean Energy Forum (ACEF) and the Energy Policy will be treated as just another set of ornamental arrangements for ADB’s public image, apparently intended to speak to its donor countries and prospective private sector business partners only. And that is why, we, the South Asian civil society, can’t participate in an ACEF process which cloaks them in green, glossing over their destructive track record across the region.



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