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The non-renewable World Bank

Environmentalists and development advocates are sceptical that the World Bank’s recent announcement of support for renewable energy is anything but spin. The targets were announced as the first public Bank response to its Extractive Industries Review (EIR), which was initiated in 2000 by Bank President James Wolfensohn. The EIR was formed to evaluate whether or not Bank support for Big Oil and King Coal contributes to the Bank’s mission of poverty alleviation. The answer, after two years of consultation and study, was that they do not. The EIR recommended phase-outs of Bank support for coal and oil, and a phase-in of renewables by increasing lending by 20 per cent of the total energy lending portfolio each year.

‘They’re not even close to the EIR recommendation. They’re pledging 20 per cent of a cent when they were asked to give 20 per cent of a dollar,’ says Steve Kretzmann of the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). According to IPS analysis of the Bank’s lending, over the past decade (1994 to 2003) the World Bank Group approved over $24.8 billion in financing for fossil fuel extractive and power projects. Over the same period, the World Bank Group approved just $1.06 billion in renewable energy projects. In other words they preferred fossil fuels over renewables by a 23:1 ratio.

‘At this rate, it will take the Bank Group nearly 20 years before their renewables portfolio reaches current levels of funding for fossil fuels – it’s absurd!’ says Janneke Bruil of Friends of the Earth International.

New Internationalist issue 370 magazine cover This article is from the August 2004 issue of New Internationalist.
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