World Bank, climate change and climate finance

Civil society event at the World Bank spring meetings 2010, 22 April

23 April 2010 | Minutes


Sunita Dubey, groundWorks

The World Bank has just approved a $3.75 billion loan to finance one of the largest coal power plants built in South Africa. It’s going to benefit big industrial companies, not poor communities. In discussions with the Bank they would always say that coal is the cheapest and most viable option. Yet the Medupi power station will be built in a highly water stressed area, there will be consequences for rural farmland.

There will also be a cumulative impact because the power plant will be built very near to another already existing plant. While there were people on the streets every day protesting against the power plant, in DC the Bank was arguing that the power plant was in the interests of poor communities.

Ama Marston, Bretton Woods Project

The World Bank trying to get a central role in climate finance. As per a Bank leaked document after Copenhagen the Bank: It was confident that it would receive the large part of the fast start finance. It talked about an outreach campaign to governments to convince them that the Bank is a good channel for climate finance. It also expressed the intention to support the development of the carbon market.

The climate investment funds (CIFs) – preliminary lessons:

  • CIFs were established very quickly; top-down; donor-driven
  • Initially didn’t have equal representation of developing countries, although now 50:50
  • Use of loans as well as grants
  • Civil society participation has been an area of critique.

There are two different messages coming from the Bank and donors regarding the CIFs. Donors like to stress that the Bank is just a channel for donor funds. Whereas the Bank is using the CIFs to present itself as active on mitigation and adaptation. The Bank is also counting the renewable investments made by the CIFs towards its overall lending.

Korinna Horta, Urgewald

REDD has been widened to countries that don’t have high deforestation rates but want to protect and enhance their forests. REDD as an opportunity: It has opened space to discuss things such as land tenure, governance of forests etc. However there are also dangerous risks towards indigenous peoples being turned off their land, of elites capturing the benefits of the carbon trade.

FCPF components: the Readiness Fund, the Carbon Fund. FCPF has committed to stakeholder participation but the Bank has actually rejected free prior and informed consent and in place has signed up to free prior and informed consultation. Learning by doing is the World Bank approach – but this has failed many times before. The 2007 review of the Banks 2002 forestry strategy concluded that the Bank’s approach to large scale intervention has not worked well for forests.

Karen Orenstein, Friends of the Earth

The Copenhagen Accord pledged $30 billion of fast start finance from 2010-2012 and a goal of $100 billion per year of public and private finance.
Where does the World Bank fit in to this? The Bank maintained a high profile at Copenhagen. In the months since, the Bank has carried on promoting itself, and developed countries are giving the vast majority of their funds to the Bank.

What about other funds?
The Least Developed Country Fund – has received only $200 million in nine years. Compared to the SREP fund which has received $250 million in far less time and to be disbursed in far less time as well. The Adaptation Fund – many see this as a model for a fund because it has a majority of developing countries on its board. It also allows for direct financing. It has overwhelming support from developing countries. There should be no reason why these funds should not have equal candidacy for fast start funds as the CIFs. The role of the World Bank really comes down to power politics. When it comes to World Bank funds donor countries are in the driving seat which they are not at the UNFCCC. 


  • What do you do about REDD in countries with real governance problems? For instance in the DRC activity needs to make progress on things like land tenure and community forests in a very careful gradual way.
  • FCPF and the FIP, what are they doing when the US seems to be far from a carbon market and the EU carbon market doesn’t recognised carbon credits from REDD? They seem to be burying their heads in the sand. They still see it as an attractive option and the most cost-effective way to emissions reductions. Although the US legislation on climate looks like it will include forest offsetting.
  • There is a contradiction at the Bank where REDD is aimed at preventing deforestation, the Bank is also enabling land-grabbing in which deforestation and intensive farming is counteracting the objectives of REDD.
  • It’s clear that finance ministers in developed countries are not willing to give the money required of them by the UN convention until they are sure that they can give it in such a way that it will benefit their own companies, and can control it.