This blog post first appeared on the Sierra Club’s Compass blog and was re-posted here with kind permission by the author
Dr. Kim, President of the World Bank, has declared the world must do more to address climate disruption. His lofty rhetoric has soared over that of previous World Bank presidents, drawing widespread support for his progressive stance. But for those who follow this institution closely, one thing has always been true – talk is cheap. That’s why all eyes are now focused on whether Dr. Kim will walk the walk by rejecting a highly controversial new coal plant in the tiny Eastern European country of Kosovo. When it comes to making decisions that test their willingness to build climate legacies, President Obama has the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, and Dr. Kim has a massive coal plant in Kosovo.
Dr. Kim’s decision should be cut-and-dried. The World Bank recently put coal finance restrictions in place, putting the institution on the right side of history. These restrictions essentially ended the institution’s support for the most carbon-intensive and destructive fossil fuel known to man or, as Grist blogger David Roberts, calls it, “the enemy of the human race.” But rather than adhere to these restrictions, let alone his own calls to address climate disruption, Dr. Kim is allowing the World Bank to pave the way for support for yet another coal plant, this time in Kosovo.
About three years ago, the World Bank began considering a loan guarantee for the construction of a new coal plant in Kosovo on the baseless assertion that this tiny nation was a renewable energy wasteland. But that’s not the case. In fact, the Bank’s own former chief clean-energy czar, Dr. Daniel Kammen, released a study showing that Kosovo can power itself with clean energy and do so more cheaply while producing more jobs than it would by building a coal plant. But rather than listen to his own former staff, Dr. Kim, a public health champion, has made embarrassing statements about Kosovars “freezing to death” as the alternative to funding this controversial project.
Kosovars have not responded kindly to the idea that their country, on course to join the European Union, has advanced so little that their citizens are freezing and dying in the streets. That’s why local civil society led by KOSID has waged a campaign for several years demanding Dr. Kim make good on his rhetoric and help move their country onto a clean-energy path that aligns with the rest of the EU. From high profile public service announcements about the health and economic risks of this ill-advised project to illuminating their demand for “no new coal in Kosovo” on the World Bank’s building in Washington, D.C., Kosovar citizens have made their opinion abundantly clear.
The problem is Dr. Kim isn’t listening. Instead, the World Bank is moving forward by conducting an environmental and social impact assessment that is likely to be perfunctory and pave the way for a final board vote that would approve millions of dollars for the coal-burning plant. Worse, sources are saying that in addition to providing a loan guarantee, the institution might double down and invest directly in the plant since even coal-plant construction companies aren’t investing.
But it’s not over yet. Across the world, civil society groups including the Sierra Club and KOSID are banding together to draw a line in the sand. It’s no longer enough to simply make strong statements about climate. It’s time to walk the walk. So let Dr. Kim know, just like President Obama, you’re watching to see if he passes his climate test.
Never miss an update
We expose the risks of international public finance and bring critical updates from the ground – straight to your inbox.