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Entries tagged "World Bank"Page 1 • 2 • 3 Next
September 12, 2013 · By Daphne Wysham
In June 2013, President Barack Obama announced that he was “calling for an end to public financing for new coal plants overseas.” Within weeks of this announcement, World Bank President Jim Kim announced the Bank would phase out its support for most forms of coal. However, what World Bank President Kim and President Obama left unsaid was how both presidents would treat current public financing of coal-fired power plants, particularly plants that are violating the policies set by the World Bank.
President Kim may soon have to tackle just this issue. A case in point is the Tata Mundra coal-fired power plant in India. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank’s private sector lending arm, in 2008 provided $500 million in financing to back this massive coal-fired power plant in Tunda-Vandh village near Mundra, a town in the Indian state of Gujarat. The complex of five 800-megawatt supercritical boiler plants was supposed to cost $4.14 billion to build and be owned and operated by Coastal Gujarat Power Limited, a special purpose vehicle owned by India’s largest private multinational corporation, the Tata Group.
The IFC isn’t the only powerful public international financial agency backing the Mundra power project: The Asian Development Bank, The Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), and the Korea Export Insurance Corporation are also involved.
The project now faces a whopping 270% in annual debt, and its CEO has stated the project is financially unviable unless electricity tariffs are drastically raised, effectively passing on the costs of Tata’s poor planning and misleading calculations to the Indian people. This negates one of the primary justifications the IFC presented in financing this project: that it would bring cheap electricity for the energy-deprived and energize the local economy.
Furthermore, the project also faces mounting debt which must be paid back in dollars, not rupees, at a time when the Indian rupee is dropping in value.
This power plant is burning about 13 million tons of coal a year, emitting nearly 40 million tons of CO2. It also generates tons of toxic fly ash and other toxic byproducts and radioactive elements due to coal combustion. This Tata Mundra plant, plus two others nearby, burn a total of 30 million tons of coal per year and emit about 88 million tons of CO2 annually—more than the combined total annual emissions of Bangladesh (a nation of 150 million people), Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and the Maldives.
The Mundra plant is situated on the Gulf of Kutch, with ready access to ports and coal that is being imported from Indonesia and Australia. What once was a region with abundant fish, farms, and pastoralists is now a region contaminated by pollution, with tens of thousands of fisher-folk and pastoralists losing their livelihoods.
In June 2011, community groups asked the IFC’s Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) to investigate environmental and social violations of the contract Tata signed with the IFC. The CAO full audit report and the IFC management’s response are expected this week. A report produced by an independent fact-finding team found numerous violations of IFC policies.
So now the question becomes: Does the IFC remedy the Tata Mundra violations, or simply cancel its support for the project, given President Kim’s and President Obama’s stated opposition to public financing of coal-fired power overseas? To do otherwise is to allow Tata to not only violate IFC policies, but to mislead its investors and then pass on the costs of its boondoggle to the very people whose poverty the company is theoretically alleviating.
What the Tata Mundra case should make clear to President Kim and others around the world is: Coal is a bad investment—for the poorest, for those consuming the power, for the Bank, and more broadly, for all of us. As a recent study of a dozen of 2012's wildest weather events found, man-made greenhouse gas emissions from coal burners like Tata’s are increasing the likelihood of about half of the wild weather events we lived through in 2012, including Superstorm Sandy; estimates suggest Sandy alone cost $68 billion.
We can’t afford to keep subsidizing these boondoggles. We can and must use public funds to invest in clean, renewable energy alternatives, with a primary focus on energy for the poorest.
July 18, 2013 · By Daphne Wysham
When President Obama made his climate speech at Georgetown University in which he urged an end to almost all public financing of coal, Jim Vallette, former research director of the Sustainable Energy & Economy Network at IPS, dropped me an e-mail and we reflected on how many years it had taken us to get to this point.
The first visit I made to a World Bank-financed coal mine in India in 1996 is still etched in my mind. Traveling for miles by train, bus and then taxi to get to the site, I saw first-hand what our "poverty alleviation" funds were doing. It was a moonscape, black, grey, with nauseating smoke billowing out of perpetual fires, deep underground. A child covered in flyash, was standing next to a black river, desperately trying to get a drink of clean water.
I later learned the wells had all run dry; the coal plant had used it all for its cooling towers. And the river was black with flyash, dumped by the World Bank-financed Talcher coal burner directly into the Nandira River. The only way this child could get a drink of water was to try to dig a hole in the sandy riverbed and hope that would filter out the pollutants.
I came back to Washington in 1996, and Jim and I got fired up to fight the public financing of coal, much of it being done in the name of poverty alleviation and sustainable development.
When we released a series of reports examining public financing of fossil fuels, starting with the World Bank, then on to the EBRD, then, in 1999 on OPIC and Ex-Im, we didn't know when these banks we had set our sites on would finally be forced out of coal. But we knew it had to come.
That day came on June 25, when we finally heard the following words uttered by President Obama:
"Today, I'm calling for an end of public financing for new coal plants overseas unless they deploy carbon-capture technologies, or there's no other viable way for the poorest countries to generate electricity. And I urge other countries to join this effort."
Were these words to be believed? On July 16, the World Bank approved a new energy strategy which would effectively phase out the Bank's institutional support for coal. The paper "affirms that the World Bank Group will 'only in rare circumstances' provide financial support for new greenfield coal power generation projects, such as 'meeting basic energy needs in countries with no feasible alternatives.'"
Then, on July 18, we got the following news: The US Export-Import Bank had rejected a coal plant in Vietnam. It was the first rejection of a coal burner since Obama's climate speech of several weeks ago.
This day came too late for that child and others in that community in India, who were forced to drink poisoned water. And I'm not pleased with the caveats Obama placed on his pledge. Nor am I pleased with the possibility that the World Bank, Ex-Im Bank and others may simply switch from coal to gas, especially if that gas is derived from “fracking,” which can be worse for our already unstable climate than coal.
But hopefully, this is the dawn of a new day, when public financing of coal mines and power plants around the world is no longer acceptable. It's not enough, of course, but after 16 years of persistent pressure from IPS and other groups, our government seems to finally be listening.
December 6, 2012 · By Brian Cruikshank
Daphne Wysham on Al Jazeera discussing the World Bank and climate change:
"It was 1992 when the World Bank was asked at the Rio Earth Summit to begin to marshall the funds to address the climate crisis, to help the developing world move away from fossil fuels, and they have done the exact opposite."
November 14, 2012 · By Manuel Perez-Rocha
I paid a visit this week to the Canadian Embassy with colleagues from the Institute for Policy Studies and other environmental and public policy organizations to deliver a letter to the Canadian Ambassador to the United States. We are demanding that his government tell Pacific Rim — the Vancouver-based mining company — to stop bullying the people of El Salvador.
Our letter was co-signed by Greenpeace, Sierra Club, Public Citizen, Friends of the Earth, Earthworks, the Center for International Environmental Law, and others. We wrote:
“Given the severe environment and human rights implications associated with Pacific Rim’s investment in El Salvador and the gold mine and cyanide leach-water processing plant it is proposing, we urge the Canadian government to alert Pacific Rim that its investor-state claim against the Salvadoran government for enforcing its own environmental laws and striving to protect its water and communities tarnishes the image of the Canadian mining industry.”
Salvadoran community leaders tell us that, since 2009 when they came to Washington DC to receive the Letelier-Moffitt human rights award from IPS, Pacific Rim has been trying to transform itself from victimizer to victim. This behavior is reprehensible. Some have lost their lives due to anti-mining activities, such as Marcelo Rivera, the brother of one of those who received the awards, who was assassinated for speaking out about the perils of gold mining.
This is the effect of free trade agreements.
Despite the prospect of major environmental damage, Pacific Rim says it has the “right,” under the investor–state regime allowed by investment rules in free trade agreements, to reap the profits that would have been brought by gold mining. In pursuit of these so-called lost profits, Pacific Rim is demanding up to hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation at the International Centre for Settlement of International Disputes (ICSID), an unaccountable World Bank tribunal that operates behind closed doors.
The Sierra Club “opposes trade and investment agreements that allow foreign corporations to attack environmental and public health protections in secret trade tribunals,” says Ilana Solomon, trade policy expert at the Sierra Club. “This lawsuit by Pacific Rim, which threatens the health and safety of communities in El Salvador, is a case in point for why we oppose these secret tribunals."
Using large roll-out maps of El Salvador watersheds that he brought along, IPS director John Cavanagh explained to the First Secretary of the Canadian Embassy that, though there is always danger from the mining and processing necessary to extract gold, Pacific Rim’s activity in El Salvador is particularly threatening given that El Salvador is the second most water-starved country in our hemisphere. A full 98 percent of El Salvador’s surface water is contaminated, some of it from mining activity halted decades ago. Yet Pacific Rim stands to exacerbate El Salvador’s water problems, threatening the river that supplies water to over half the population.
There is a broad consensus in the department of Cabañas and throughout the country that opening a mine in the Lempa River watershed presents a dangerous risk that El Salvador cannot afford. Polling shows that the people of El Salvador oppose gold mining and the government supports this mandate.
Pacific Rim claims that those who oppose gold mining are “certain,” “rogue,” and “anti-developmental” organizations. But hundreds of environmental organizations in the United States, Canada and globally stand firm to defend the right of the people of El Salvador — the first nation to halt gold mining — to defend their environment and to implement public policies to this end. Yesterday we asked the embassy official to notify his government that we expect an escalation in worldwide protests demanding that Pacific Rim drop its suit at the World Bank’s ICSID, and leave El Salvador.
In addition to environmental concerns, Pacific Rim’s project has caused divisions and severe human costs. As our letter states:
“We are deeply troubled by the human rights abuses associated with the Pacific Rim mine. Already, four environmental activists have been assassinated and many more have been threatened, including journalists who operate a local radio station.”
No company should have the right to threaten a country like this.
October 9, 2012 · By Janet Redman
Civil society to World Bank president Dr. Jim Kim, "add your voice to the choir of support for an FTT"
Today, the Institute for Policy Studies sent the newly appointed World Bank president Dr. Jim Kim a letter signed by 58 organizations from around the world urging him to champion financial transaction taxes (FTT) – a tiny tax on stocks, bonds, currency and other derivatives trades - as an innovative way to raise much-needed money to address climate change, health and other development priorities in poorer countries. The groups – including WWF, Greenpeace, Oxfam, AFL-CIO, World AIDS Campaign, United Methodist Church, and the Main Street Alliance – come from a broad cross-section of civil society and show a growing consensus that it's time for developed countries to get serious about meeting their promises on climate and development finance.
The letter was sent in anticipation of the World Bank's annual meeting in Tokyo later this week, where high-level finance ministry officials from developed and developing countries will assemble to discuss poverty eradication, sustainable development and the world economic outlook.
In the letter, groups urged Dr. Kim to "[p]romote FTT as a source of innovative finance for developing countries’ efforts to address climate change. Such revenues are needed for the Green Climate Fund and … it would be helpful to promote FTT as a source of climate finance in the context of studies and reports mandated by international bodies such as the G20 and the UN."
In conjunction with the Bank meetings the Leading Group on Innovative Financing for Development will hold a symposium highlighting the role of FTT on meeting the funding gap for climate and development left by the global economic crisis. Two of the countries featured in the event – France and Germany – are part of an eleven-country 'coalition of the willing' that announced their commitment to implement an FTT today at the European Union Finance Ministers Meeting (ECOFIN). The letter to Kim emphasized that "[a]t this key moment in their decision-making, it is particularly important to urge European leaders to allocate part of FTT revenue to development and climate."
Now that countries have taken this leap forward, the World Bank's leader should make his own bold move and support an FTT.
Note: Besides the four biggest economies in the Eurozone – France, Germany, Italy and Spain – Austria, Belgium, Estonia, Greece, Portugal, Slovakia and Slovenia have pledged to implement a financial transaction tax at ECOFIN. This "coalition of the willing" approach will still need to be given the green light by EU heads of state, but the political momentum is clearly strong.
Dr. Jim Yong Kim
The World Bank
1818 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20433
October 9, 2012
Re: Financial transaction taxes as a source of innovative finance
Dear Dr. Kim:
We, the undersigned 58 organizations, congratulate you on your position as World Bank President. We are hopeful that with your impressive track record, you will bring fresh thinking to this important financial institution.
We are writing now to encourage you to use your prominent position of influence to become a vocal champion of innovative ways to ensure sufficient resources are available to tackle the most pressing problems faced by the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.
Given the budget constraints facing many of the largest donor countries, it is widely accepted that new sources of financing are needed. Our organizations are part of a growing international campaign to promote one of the most promising forms of innovative finance – small taxes on trades of stock, derivatives, currencies, and other financial instruments.
We have long advocated that such financial transaction taxes (FTTs) are a practical way to generate revenue to fill domestic and international financing gaps, discourage the type of short- term financial speculation that has little social value but poses high risks to the economy, and serve as a predictable and sustainable source financing for health, climate, development, education, and job creation. In a recent paper, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs concluded that “financial and currency transaction taxes are technically feasible and economically sensible. They could readily provide the means of meeting global development financing needs.”
Over the past two years, we have been encouraged by significant shifts in the debate, with influential leaders such as Bill Gates, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan, and Pope Benedict XVI coming out in support. Now is a critical time to add your voice to the call.
A group of at least 11 European governments appears on track to forge an EU agreement to implement a FTT by the end of 2012. However, with the exception of France, they have made no clear commitment yet on how the resources would be allocated. Your support could help ensure that a substantial portion of the revenue goes to meet the needs of the world’s poorest people, rather than simply paying down deficits.
1. Raise FTT in the context of your work to publicize the new World Development Report focusing on jobs. As governments look for sources of financing for job-creation strategies, FTT should be promoted as one potential source.
2. Promote the FTT as part of a plan to achieve internationally agreed global health, education and other development goals. For example, with the prospect of ending AIDS closer than ever, FTT revenues could help achieve Millennium Development Goal #6, aimed at reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS and ensuring universal access to treatment and help fully fund implementation of the 2011 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS.
3. Promote FTT as a source of innovative finance for developing countries’ efforts to address climate change. Such revenues are needed for the Green Climate Fund and other funds of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, including the Adaptation Fund, Least Developed Countries Fund, and the Special Climate Change Fund. Further, it would be helpful to promote FTT as a source of climate finance in the context of studies and reports mandated by international bodies such as the G20 and the UN.
4. Bring these messages to the general public and world leaders. At this key moment in their decision-making, it is particularly important to urge European leaders to allocate part of FTT revenue to development and climate. We also recommend that you publish an open letter on this theme in major newspapers.
5. Meet with civil society and independent experts on this timely issue. We would be very pleased to organize a briefing that would include participation by leading experts in the field. Over the past several years, many of our organizations have been involved in similar briefings with the International Monetary Fund, the Gates Foundation, the European Commission, and national governments. We would appreciate the opportunity to share research and analysis of the feasibility and potential benefits of this means of generating additional finance.
We look forward to hearing from you. Sincerely,
Alliance for a Just Society, USA
Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU)
Balance Promoción para el Desarrollo y Juventud, Mexico
Campaign for the Welfare State, Norway
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
Center for Economic and Social Rights, USA
Chicago Political Economy Group, USA
Coalition 15%, Cameroon
Comisiones Obreras (CCOO), Spain
Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro (Ialian Geneneral Confederation on Labour)
CPATH (Center for Policy Analysis on Trade and Health), USA
Ecologistas en Acción, Spain
Europeans for Financial Reform
Friends of the Earth U.S. Gender Action, USA
Global Health Advocates France Global South Initiative, Nepal
Halifax Initiative, Canada
Health GAP, USA
IG Bauen-Agrar-Umwelt (Trade Union for Building, Forestry, Agriculture and the Environment), Germany
INPUD (International Network of People who Use Drugs), United Kingdom
Institute for Policy Studies, Global Economy Project, USA
Interagency Coalition on AIDS and Development (ICAD), Canada
International Civil Society Support International HIV/AIDS Alliance
International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID)
International Trade Union Confederation
Kampagne: Steuer gegen Armut (Tax Against Poverty Campaign), Germany
KOO-Koordinierungsstelle der Österreichischen Bischofskonferenz f.internationale Entwicklung und Mission, Austria
Main Street Alliance, USA
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, USA
National Union of Public and General Employees, Canada
NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association, Australia
Public Services International
Réseau Accès aux Médicaments Essentiels (RAME), Burkina Faso
Robin Hood Tax Campaign, United Kingdom
Stamp Out Poverty, United Kingdom
Trades Union Congress, Great Britain
Treatment Action Group, USA
UBUNTU - World Forum of Civil Society Networks
Unión Sindical Obrera (USO), Spain
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society, USA
Wealth for the Common Good, USA
Women in Europe and Central Asia Regions plus (WECARe+), Germany
World AIDS Campaign International, South Africa and Kenya
World Democratic Governance project Association
World Federalist Movement Japan