World Bank caught offside on climate change

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Harare – A quick search for “climate change” on the World Bank Group website returns a list of numerous initiatives being pursued by the global lender to cushion communities affected by climate change worldwide.  

The institution says: “Climate change is a major risk to good development outcomes, and the Bank Group is committed to playing an important role in helping countries integrate climate action into their core development agendas.”

But is the bank genuinely concerned about climate change?

German-based NGO Urgewald thinks not.

The non-profit environmental and human rights organisation says the World Bank is instead at the forefront of funding the growth of fossil fuels rather than clean energy.

The burning of fossil fuels - which include oil, coal and gas - is the biggest contributor to global warming, accounting for 89 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions in 2018.  

Research by Urgewald reveals that the World Bank invested over US$12 billion in fossil fuels since the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Of this, US$10,5 billion was direct financing for new fossil fuel projects in 30 countries.
US$200 million was spent on technical assistance in 11 countries to push large fossil fuel projects forward and/or to increase future investments.

Urgewald also suggests the World Bank holds US$1,4 billion equity in fossil fuel operations.

“The world is running out of time to avert a worsening climate crisis. At this point, every public dollar the World Bank invests in fossil fuels pushes the world further and further away from being able to limit global warming to 1,5°C,” reads part of the report by Urgewald.

In order to arrest the escalating climate crisis, the world needs an urgent and just transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Data shows that the energy transition is happening far too slowly. Researchers from several expert organisations, including the UN Environment Programme, determined the world is currently on track to produce 120 percent more fossil fuels by 2030 than is compatible with a 1,5°C pathway.

“Thus, we are already on track to miss the Paris Climate Agreement goal. In addition, according to The Economist, annual investments in wind and solar capacity need to reach about US$750 billion, which requires a tripling of current investment levels.”

Two Southern African countries – Mozambique (which was ravaged by floods linked to climate change last year), and Tanzania - benefited from the World Bank funding for fossil fuels.

Tanzania got money for oil and gas exploration, while Mozambique received financial backing for exploration and production, coal mining and thermal power generation.

While the World Bank acknowledges that climate change can drive millions into poverty due to unpredictable weather patterns and natural disasters, the global lender continues to fuel the fire.

Studies show natural disasters cost about US$18 billion a year in low and middle-income countries in damage to power generation and transport infrastructure; while wider disruptions in these economies cost US$390 billion annually.

When cyclones Idai and Kenneth ripped through Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe last year, damage was estimated at between US$2 billion and US$4 billion.

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