Istanbul – With the 2013 EBRD annual meetings underway and in spite of repeated commitments to sustainability, the bank is set to continue financing coal projects that will dangerously aggravate climate change.
In a landmark ruling laid out in a March 25 letter to the Ukrainian Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Implementation Commission of the United Nations Espoo Convention has deemed that Ukraine’s plans to expand the lifetime of its old nuclear reactors is in breach of the convention – the same convention that Ukraine ratified in 1999. Ukrainian campaigners believe that this should lead the EBRD to halt the disbursement of a EUR 300 million ‘nuclear safety’ loan agreed with Ukraine’s state nuclear operator just days prior to the issuing of the Espoo verdict.
The findings of a recent report entitled ‘The unpaid health bill: How coal power plants make us sick’, released by the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), detail the health impacts of existing coal in Europe and quantify the associated costs of mortality and chronic respiratory and cardiovascular disease due to coal pollution.
If there is one sector in which the EBRD has been causing particular controversy in recent years, it is the energy sector. From lignite in Slovenia to hydropower in Georgia and nuclear in Ukraine, the bank has financed a series of projects that have incurred opposition from various quarters. Now that the EBRD is revising its Environmental and Social Policy it's time to take a look at what needs to be learned from these projects.
The new EBRD country strategy for Russia that will apply for 2013-2015 attracted input and comments from several human rights and environmental watchdogs, among them Human Rights Watch, WWF, Greenpeace and Bankwatch. As part of the consultation on the new strategy, NGOs expressed concerns about the current political and social situation in Russia as well as the dangers of natural resource development. The comments were incorporated into the strategy document but it remains unclear if NGOs were able to influence actual decision-making.
This year's flurry of reviews to EBRD sectoral, country and operational strategies has given civil society organisations plenty to think about and provide input on. However, in the case of at least one of the reviews, we already have a pretty good idea what we will say. Because we've said it before – several times.
Energy is the watchword of the day, as we keep increasing the need for it, no matter the costs, apparently. Well, the costs do matter but they are distorted by subsidies old and new, for fossil fuels and for renewable energy sources, while the global business world is made to feel increasingly insecure by the price of carbon emissions.