EBRD efforts to clean up its energy lending in central and eastern Europe are being undermined by extensive fossil fuel investments, with astonishing increases in the EBRD's backing for coal and oil projects in 2011.
The 68 MW Ombla underground hydropower project, for which the EBRD approved a EUR 123.2 loan in 22 November 2011, is once again under fire, this time in the European Parliament. Both the project itself and its approval process have attracted widespread criticism from civil society and biodiversity experts as the project location forms part of a future Natura 2000 site. In 2008 the Croatian State Institute for Nature Protection declared the project “unacceptable for nature”.
As it begins to dawn on Europe's elite that fiscal austerity is not working after all, the European Investment Bank is once again the talk of the EU as decision-makers scramble to stimulate national economies that are hemhorraging jobs and living standards - and hope - across the continent.
In February 2009 the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, together with the European Investment Bank and the World Bank Group launched a series of meetings with commercial banks, coordinated with the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund, to shore up a weak link in the financial systems of the European Union. The weak link is in so-called ‘emerging Europe’, the countries of central and eastern Europe that are in the EU, but are outside the European Monetary Union, the Euro-zone. These are mostly ex-Communist countries whose financial systems had remained undeveloped under communism.
The European Investment Bank has announced that it will commence a review of its energy policy - “Clean energy for Europe: A reinforced EIB contribution” - in the second half of 2012. Bankwatch welcomed the announcement as the current policy, adopted in June 2007, needs to be brought up to speed and aligned with the latest developments in EU energy and climate policies.
Earlier this year at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Ukraine's president Victor Yanukovych met Thomas Mirow, the EBRD president, with Yanukovych deeming the ongoing cooperation between Ukraine and the bank to be “excellent”. Other than this being a diplomatic pleasantry, when it comes to energy infrastructure projects Ukraine certainly appears to have done very well out of the EBRD: since 2005 the EBRD has committed more than half a billion euros for these projects in Ukraine, in particular for the upgrade and construction of high-voltage transmission lines. Yet the experience for all concerned – including local communities – has been far from excellent, and concerns are mounting that further grid expansion plans could be storing up yet more problems.
The figures should be well known. Somehow, though, in the western world, and especially in official quarters, they tend to get overlooked in the rush to impose the 'next latest thing' on post-revolution Egypt. The country's seven percent GDP growth figure in 2007, hailed by the World Bank and others, concealed a multitude of injustices. For one thing, average per capita GDP growth plummeted from 4.1 per cent prior to 1990 to 2.7 per cent during the neoliberal era set in motion by the IMF structural adjustment regime in 1991.
After a long gestation period the EBRD's new draft Municipal and Environmental Infrastructure (MEI) policy finally appeared in April, bringing some good news such as the bank's commitment to start monitoring some on the ground project impacts and sustainability rather than just market-related transition impacts.
The European Union has embarked upon an ambitious voyage to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95 percent by 2050. To achieve this goal, a deep transformation of the economy is needed. Such a shift requires significant investments into energy efficiency measures and renewable energy sources, but it also means that decisions and infrastructure investments that would lock up our societies in carbon intensive consumption and production patterns need to be avoided.