An Open Letter To Congress Re. The World Bank

Dear Members of Congress,

This summer, the world is being rocked by famine, floods and extreme temperatures. Famine in East Africa. Deadly floods in Bangladesh and Puerto Rico. Fires across the United States and Europe.  

The World Bank should play a crucial role in addressing climate change by helping emerging economies prioritize climate investments, integrate climate resilience into infrastructure planning, protect critical ecosystems, help countries address energy poverty, achieve sustainable energy access for all and increase climate ambition as part of their nationally determined contributions and long-term strategies.

Yet instead of investments that ensure that the communities of the Global South have large-scale, universal access to safe, clean, sustainable energy, the World Bank continues to prioritize oil, gas and coal projects over renewable energy projects.

Since the Paris Agreement was adopted (2016-2020), the World Bank has provided $12 billion in direct project finance for fossil fuels in over 35 countries. This is in addition to billions more in government budget support with no restrictions for fossil fuel investing, in fossil fuel-enabling infrastructure, in fossil-friendly policy reforms and in technical assistance. In fact, Oil Change International has found that the World Bank provides more fossil fuel support than any other multilateral development bank, at $1.8 billion a year on average from 2018-2020. 
They do this rather than prioritizing much needed investments into renewables. Only 1.3% of global solar energy is being produced in Africa and $70 billion in renewable energy projects is needed every year for clean energy transformation to take place in the continent 

The World Bank has issued reports and plans that say the right things. Yet its Climate Change Action Plan stops short of setting the ambitious priorities that are needed to address the climate change crisis and deliver on a just and fair transition for all. 

We are seeing profound leadership failures in addressing this crisis. This week, World Bank President David Malpass initially refused to say directly whether he accepted the scientific consensus that the burning of fossil fuels is dangerously warming the planet. The person in charge of one of the world's most important institutions for economic development and crisis response only acknowledged the greatest threat to economic development after receiving heavy criticism. 

We urge Congressional leaders to demand change at the World Bank. As a large shareholding in the World Bank, the United States should use its position to accelerate a global transition toward net zero emissions, as agreed to in the Paris Accord. 

Developing countries deserve a just and fair transition and genuine partnership. The World Bank has a choice: it can either entrench developing countries in high emission, fossil fuel-dependent development pathways with a high risk of locking in stranded assets and increasing energy prices in the future or facilitate the transition to renewable economies and support clean energy investments, which is the safest and cheapest option to provide energy access in future, on top of being the right one for the climate.

Please join us in calling for a renewed approach to the World Bank’s climate policy. This would allow, in the words of Treasury Secretary Yellin, a “reboot” to enable the World Bank to mobilize critical climate finance for clean, sustainable projects in countries that need it most.

As more and more advocates, businesses and governments around the world showcase their willingness to step up climate action, partnership, patience, support and access to cheap and affordable financing is essential if we as a collective society are to deliver on the global goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050 without sacrificing the development and economic aspirations of people in development countries. This is at the heart of what a just and fair clean energy transition is all about. The World Bank needs to be at the forefront of these efforts.

Global Citizen