A new report by Oil Change International, released on the eve of the World Bank’s Annual Meetings, contradicts the idea that World Bank support for coal and oil projects increases access to energy for the world’s poorest.
The group says it refutes claims made by governments, banks, and industries that ongoing taxpayer support for large coal and oil projects is necessary to alleviate energy poverty.
The World Bank has used arguments around increasing energy access--providing energy to the 1.4 billion people who lack access to electricity or the 2.7 billion still using wood or biomass for cooking and heating--to justify the approval of massive new coal-fired power plants like the Eskom plant in South Africa, as well as the continued funding of oil projects. But both Oil Change International’s original research and the Bank’s own analysis show that none of the Bank’s coal or oil lending for the last two years have prioritized increasing energy access, the group said in a release.
“World Bank officials justify massively polluting coal and oil projects by saying that they increase energy access for the poor--but that’s just not true”, said Elizabeth Bast of Oil Change International. “Our analysis and the World Bank’s are remarkably similar. Energy from the World Bank’s coal and oil plants go to support big industry, not the world’s poorest.”
“Once again, the research bears out that the world’s poor do not benefit from fossil fuel projects,” said Bast. “Not only do the poor suffer the climate impacts of increased fossil fuel emissions and impacts from local pollution, but they are also not receiving the energy from the same projects that damage their livelihoods. With so many in the world without energy, the World Bank must prioritize investments that ensure increased energy access for the poor instead of prioritizing fossil fuel projects for industrial use.”
Some key findings from the report, "World Bank Group Energy Financing: Energy for the Poor?":
- None of the 26 fossil fuel projects reviewed clearly identify access for the poor as a direct target of the project.
- The World Bank Group and the report authors agree that no coal or oil projects can be classified as improving energy access for the poor.
- In FY2009 and FY2010, funding for upstream fossil fuel projects and fossil fuel power plants dwarfed World Bank spending on access projects by 225% or $7.2 billion compared to $3.2 billion for access (according to the Bank’s own assessment, which includes two questionable gas projects).
Some key recommendations from the report:
- The World Bank Group should end support for all fossil fuel projects that do not have as their sole purpose energy access for the poor.
- Lending should be increased for small-scale and large-scale renewable energy projects, which can improve access and shift countries to a low carbon economy.
The full report is available for download at the link below.