Conflict of interest in Bank energy initiatives

15 December 1998

A new briefing from the Institute for Policy Studies highlights the Bank’s reluctance to take decisive action on climate change. Its arguments on the Bank’s dual roles in emissions trading seem to have won some official backing.

Roughly one-fifth of all World Bank lending is devoted to increasing energy supply in developing countries. Over three quarters of this energy lending is targeted at oil, coal and gas development. 9 out of 10 World Bank fossil fuel projects benefit transnational corporations based in the wealthy G7 countries, many of whom are members of the Global Climate Coalition a US-based lobby group that actively opposes any action on climate change.

Meanwhile the World Bank is positioning itself to play an increasing role in the marketing of “carbon offset” trades and credits where rich country companies or aid agencies can reduce their requirements to reduce fossil fuel use if they assist other countries use energy more efficiently. Internal documents show the World Bank plans to collect a 5 percent commission on carbon emission trades under such schemes, netting a profit it estimates as £4.5 billion by 2020.

The US Treasury appears to agree that the Bank’s history of fossil-fuels development and failing to implement its own energy and environment policies do not make it a suitable broker of such emissions trades.

A broad coalition of US NGOs and church groups are collectively urging the World Bank to:

  • Honestly and openly calculate greenhouse gas emissions associated with all World Bank lending.
  • Set a benchmark for phased reduction of greenhouse gas emissions associated with its projects.
  • Institute a moratorium on lending or guarantees for any project that involves new exploration for fossil fuels.
  • Phase out lending and guarantees for projects involving coal and oil extraction.
  • Devote 20 percent of its energy and power lending portfolio to renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, and creating an energy efficiency unit.
  • Make public, as part of Country Assistance Strategies, an integrated energy strategy with specific goals for improving the productivity of energy use targeted at the poorest, and developing renewables and energy efficiency.

Finally, the groups want the Bank to conduct a formal and transparent evaluation of how well its energy and transport lending has served the world’s 2 billion rural poor who are without access to energy for cooking, heating and lighting.

To join the network of groups advocating on these issues, contact:

For full documentation see the website: