More than 200 organisations from 56 countries are calling on the World Bank and other international financial institutions to end subsidies to the oil industry. In a statement, the groups refer to ‘oil aid’ as one of the most glaring barriers to fighting climate change and addressing energy access in developing countries. As the heads of the World Bank gather in Washington this weekend to discuss their energy lending and climate change strategy, the latest annual report of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) indicates that little has changed in the institution’s approach. In 2007, the private-sector lending arm of the World Bank provided more than $645m to oil and gas companies. This is an increase of at least 40% from 2006.
“The World Bank’s approach to climate change and energy is inconsistent and contradictory,” said Jennifer Kalafut of NGO Oil Change International. “Despite commitments to cut global greenhouse gas emissions, it continues to increase support for oil extraction projects around the world.” In 2006, the World Bank increased its energy sector commitments from $2.8bn to $4.4bn. Oil, gas and power sector commitments account for 77% of the total energy sector programme while ‘new renewables’ account for only 5%. “Investing in renewable electricity will save 10 times the fuel costs than if we stayed on a ‘business as usual’ course with fossil fuels,” said Daniel Mittler from Greenpeace International. “We can cut global CO2 emissions by 50% by 2050, while addressing issues of energy access for the poor and maintaining global economic growth.”
The Bank’s support to the oil sector is also highly inequitable. While the majority of its oil projects are designed for export to wealthy countries, 1.6 billion people, including 500 million in sub-Saharan Africa, still lack access to electricity. “By funding these oil projects the World Bank is undermining its own goals of fighting energy poverty and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It is also perpetuating problems of conflict and human rights violations often associated with extractive projects, as in the case of the Chad-Cameroon pipeline,” said Korinna Horta from Environmental Defense, a U.S-based NGO. The hundreds of groups and affected communities that have signed this statement are demanding that the World Bank and other public financial institutions stop financing oil projects. They assert that development assistance should be tackling the issue of energy poverty and building clean energy pathways rather than subsidising big oil.