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March 07, 2011
Demonstrations Call for End to World Bank Investment in Fossil Fuels
    by Robert Kropp

NGOs orchestrate demonstrations at offices of the World Bank, calling on it to return to its mission of fighting poverty by ending its funding of fossil fuel projects.

When he spoke recently with, Ian Gary of Oxfam America spoke of "continuing issues" the organization has encountered in its engagement with the World Bank.

"In very few instances has funding of extractive industry projects led to a reduction in poverty," Gary said.

In fact, the World Bank's lending practices may be even more problematic than Gary's description of them. A recent analysis by Oil Change International found "that none of the World Bank Group’s fossil fuel finance directly targets the poor or ensures that energy benefits are reaching the poor."

Furthermore, as Alison Doig, Senior Adviser on Climate Change at Christian Aid, a UK-based nongovernmental organization (NGO), stated, "Climate change is already devastating lives and livelihoods in developing countries, and predictions are that it will get much worse."

Yet, as a recent study by the Bank Information Center (BIC) pointed out, "2010 was a record year for coal lending at the World Bank – the most heavily polluting of all fossil fuels."

In response to the apparent mission drift by the World Bank—whose mission, it states, "Is to fight poverty with passion and professionalism for lasting results and to help people help themselves and their environment"—a group of NGOs demonstrated at its offices throughout the world last week, calling for an end to lending for fossil fuel projects.

The NGOs involved in the demonstrations included Christian Aid, the World Development Movement (WDM), People & Planet, and Jubilee Debt Campaign.

According to a press release from BIC, the demonstrators, "dressed as prisoners chained to lumps of coal," were specifically "targeting the World Bank's Energy Strategy, which is currently under review."

"Once approved, the Energy Strategy will guide the institution’s substantial energy lending portfolio for the next decade," the press release continued. "Activists are calling on the Bank's Energy Strategy review to commit to providing energy services for the poor while phasing out fossil fuel lending."

Doig of Christian Aid stated, "None of the huge fossil fuel projects financed by the World Bank in recent years have increasing energy access as their objective. The new energy strategy cannot be a green cover up for continuing business as usual at the World Bank. It must free us from fossil fuels."

Murray Worthy, policy officer at the WDM, stated, "The World Bank has a long track record of getting its policies for developing countries wrong. It must stop providing finance, including loans, for dirty energy projects."


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