Bankwatch Mail 56
Bankwatch Mail | 10 May 2013
Published to coincide with the EBRD’s annual meeting 2013 being held in Istanbul, this issue examines a developing controversial project in the bank’s newest region: a refinery expansion project in Cairo. Other fossil fuel investments by the EBRD also feature in the newsletter – and as the bank goes into major ‘policy review’ mode, with revisions to its energy, environmental and social and public information policies in the pipeline for this year, we put forward the case for the EBRD to rise to the climate challenge with real action rather than words. As the bank’s newly signed Kosovo country strategy demonstrates, however, the bank isn’t on course yet.
- A USD 3.7 billion refinery expansion project inside urban Cairo attracting international public development finance, including potentially from the EBRD, is also attracting major controversy as a result of forced evictions, pollution and concerns about the involvement of financial entities linked to the deposed Mubarak regime.
- 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.
- Bankwatch’s press officer reports back from a troubling visit to the Kolubara mining basin.
- The EBRD’s new country strategy for Kosovo, announced by the bank on May 3 after Bankwatch Mail Issue 56 went to press, has confirmed what NGOs and others had feared in the consultation process for the EBRD’s first strategy in its new country of operation: that financial support for a new major lignite power plant is very much on the EBRD’s radar, despite evidence that Kosovo does not need such a power plant as well as the potential undermining of EU climate goals.
- 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.
- 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.
- At the time of writing, it is highly uncertain what the future holds for the controversial 68 MW Ombla underground hydropower plant. Approved for financing by the EBRD back in 2011, only recently has a nature impact assessment study finally been published, and no final opinions have been given by either state institutions or the EBRD on whether the project is to go ahead.
- A new report by Greenpeace Croatia, using European Environment Agency methodology, shows that the planned new 500 MW unit at the Plomin coal power plant in Croatia will cause approximately 17 early deaths annually, along with around 3970 lost working days due to illness and EUR 124.8 million in external costs.
- In its recent report, ‘The great enablers: how investments by international financial institutions threaten the fragile Caspian Sea ecosystem’, Crude Accountability describes how investments in the Caspian Sea region by international financial institutions, including the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, are contributing to the intensification of extraction of and trade in the region’s oil and gas.
- 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.
- “When the winds of change blow,” says an old Chinese proverb, “some build walls, and others build wind mills.”
- Following confirmation at the beginning of March that the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development are paying out half a billion euros in loans for a new unit at the Sostanj lignite power plant (TES 6) in Slovenia, 98 organisations sent an open letter to both banks calling on them to never commit to such misguided loans again.
- 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.
- The attention of the environmental community in Armenia has recently been focused on events swirling around the Deno Gold Mining Company (DGMC). The company has been contending with rising tensions in Kapan as a result of its laying off of workers at its gold mining operations coupled with failings at its Geghanush tailings facility. The controversies have arisen just as the company awaits disbursement of a new loan from the EBRD.
- A European Bank for Reconstruction and Development loan to the SVL group, granted with no public oversight, threatens new oil-related catastrophes.
- Amasra, situated on the south coast of the Black Sea, is an ancient city that these days bases its economy on tourism and fishing. It’s the beginning of April and the women’s market is welcoming the first tourists of the year with fresh cheese, home-made pasta and vegetables. On the wall in a nearby cafe hangs a large poster with the slogan: “Amasra does not need a power plant”.