Environment

Background

World Bank Group Paris Alignment: Governance & private sector participation in the energy sector

1 November 2019 | Minutes

Panelists at a Civil Society Policy Forum event on the World Bank Group's Paris Agreement alignment, on 16 October.

Moderator: Jürgen Zattler, Executive Director for Germany to the World Bank

Panellists:

  • Heike Mainhardt, Senior Advisor, Urgewald
  • Melinda Janki, Director, Justice Institute Guyana
  • David Pred, Executive director and founder, Inclusive Development International
  • Aaron Pedrosa, Secretary General, Philippines Movement for Climate Justice
  • Gabriela Azuela, Senior Energy Specialist, World Bank Group (WBG)
  • Peer Stein, Global Head of Climate Finance, International Finance Corporation (IFC)

Jürgen Zattler: The panel is happening at a moment when the climate picture is not looking good: Even though we have to urgently address the challenge of climate change, global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are currently increasing.

The World Bank Group is not the most important player in addressing this issue, as the finance it provides is quite small in the global scheme of things, but it is a key interlocutor, that has the ability to talk to all the key actors involved.

One of the key issues is the energy transition in Asia with rising energy demand in that region as it continues to develop, as well as how urban agglomerations will be structured.

The German government’s position on climate action is very clear: There is very strong support from government, as well as from the German mainstream population, regarding the need for strong climate action. It’s very high on the national agenda.

Investment in renewables is one very promising area, as over last the ten years they have become competitive with other conventional sources of energy. There are still some bottlenecks, from our perspective, however, including the need to improve the capacity for energy storage, that are holding back a more rapid transition to a clean energy system.

What we need to see is for those developing countries that are at a crossroads in developing their energy mix, if we can see investments in renewables there, that will be hugely important. We need to work on the policy level, to make policy frameworks conducive to green investments, via the removal of fossil fuel subsidies (including through feed-in tariffs). My office is working with the IMF on this. IFC needs to also work with private sector actors on this.

When the World Bank’s board is confronted with oil and gas projects, it makes a decision based on the energy path of the country. Gas can be good or bad, depending on the energy mix.

There are still discussion about how the World Bank Group will align with the Paris Agreement – that’s key for us [Germany as a shareholder]. That can mean a lot of things; it’s not easy for us to determine the right approach. It has many facets, including how we deal with the IFC’s investments in financial intermediaries. But it’s very important that we are able to develop a comprehensive approach to this.

Heike Mainhardt: Our study looked at WBG policy-based assistance: including Development Policy Finance, technical services, and advisory services.

How are WBG’s policy operations assisting (or not) countries to transition to low-GHG development in the energy sector? These activities focus on a number of important issues, including:

  • Drafting of new laws, regulations and energy sector strategies (including creating investment incentives, e.g. tax breaks and government guarantees).
  • Designing energy tariff reforms
  • Streamlining investment procedures
  • Joining the Extractives Industry Initiative (EITI) to increase transparency of payments to governments
  • Environmental and safety regulations

In our review of the WBG’s entire energy sector portfolio for fiscal years (FY) 2014-18, we identified 44 policy-based operations that specifically targeted fossil fuels, in 28 countries: These operations are largely aimed at growing operations in these sectors, according to project documents, and focused on gas (including at least five focused on liquefied natural gas [LNG]), oil and coal mining.

For example, Kenya received technical assistance from the WBG for is petroleum industry, amounting to a $50 million credit from the International Development Association [IDA, the World Bank’s concessional lending arm], which specifically sought to make the sector “conducive to investments” while ensuring that safeguards and safety standards were met at an international level. This support included drafting a new petroleum law, supporting gathering of geophysical data, and performing a scoping study for a new pipeline.

Development policy finance: During FY14-18, the World Bank required ‘prior actions’ (i.e. legal changes) in the loan agreements in four countries (Indonesia, Mozambique, Pakistan and Vietnam) which created incentives for new oil and gas operations, through the creation of tax breaks and subsidies.

In the case of Mozambique, a mining and gas technical assistance project sought to increase investments in LNG and coal mining, primarily for export. LNG is a GHG-intensive type of fossil fuel, as it has to be cooled to -162°C before it is transported. The project document notes the technical assistance, provided through a $28 million IDA grant, would be “critical” in “moving forward the current pipeline of LNG projects toward production” in Mozambique, as well as “supporting new investment into its minerals sector, including coal.”

Meanwhile, the IFC provides transaction advisory services for projects. This includes a range of assistance, including development of project preparation studies, promotion of the project to investors, creating Power Purchase Agreements (tariffs), and arranging complex project finance packages, including guarantees and syndicated loans.

The IFC provided these services for a controversial coal project in Kosovo, even though the World Bank Group itself ultimately withheld project finance from the coal plant, as a study found that renewables were cheaper than coal in the country, and thus the Bank was unable to invest under the terms of its 2013 coal project finance moratorium (see Observer Winter 2018). The government of Kosovo noted, “IFC services were crucial for the closure of the first phase of the [coal] project, when the Commercial Agreement was signed.”

Overall, we found no evidence that WBG’s policy assistance is getting the incentives right to encourage countries to pursue a low-carbon energy mix. Our recommendations include:

  • Ensure that all policy-based assistance is aligned with the Paris Climate Agreement, and included in the MDBs’ joint approach to alignment
  • End all fossil fuel investment incentives contained in policy-based assistance
  • Promote the adoption of an upstream oil tax applicable at the point of extraction for every barrel of oil, metre of gas, or ton of coal, based on the carbon/GHG content of each fuel

Melinda Janki: Guyana’s Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement (NDC) calls for a low-carbon, renewable-energy based, energy mix. Instead, IDA is helping Exxon and Hess to move forward with a proposed offshore oil & gas development that will transform Guyana from a carbon sink to a carbon producer, by providing technical support to re-write Guyana’s environmental legislation (see Observer Summer 2018). This will transform Guyana’s energy mix to make it more reliant on fossil fuels, which will worsen climate change, and directly impact a country where the majority of people live at sea level.

IDA’s loan to Guyana must be suspended with immediate effect. IDA is breaching its commitment under international law, by undermining the Paris Climate Agreement, as well as breaching Article 1 of its own Articles of Agreement, which vows to “raise standards of living” in IDA countries through its finance.

IDA’s project documents falsely claim that Guyana’s environmental laws are “out of date”. In fact, Guyana environmental protection law is a gold standard that has influenced the creation of the Escazú Agreement in the wider Latin American region [formally known as the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean]. I hope IDA is not suggesting that Guyana does not have the right to intervene in matters the directly impact its own environment.

IDA is lending money to an illegal regime in Guyana, that within the last year has lost a vote of no confidence, and has subsequently refused to hold fresh elections, a violation of Guyana’s constitution. IDA’s loan must be suspended, until a proper government is restored, and legal and environmental questions have been resolved in relation to Guyana’s planned offshore oil and gas development.

David Pred: Over the last decade, at Inclusive Development International we have been looking into IFC’s support for financial intermediaries (FIs). In that time, we have found some 150 sub-projects linked to IFC financial intermediary clients that violated the IFC’s Performance Standards. This has included a number of investments linked to the construction of new coal power plants.

One of the cases that we uncovered was the IFC’s investments in Rizal Commerical Banking Corporation in the Philippines – which is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change. Rizal, an IFC financial intermediary client, has invested in 19 new coal-fired power plants in the Philippines. This is now the subject of the first ever climate change-related complaint to the IFC’s independent accountability mechanism, the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman, on behalf of impacted communities.

The IFC’s response to the advocacy of CSOs in this area has been to create a new policy called the Green Equity Strategy (GES) – I would like to thank the IFC for actively engaging with and listening to civil society during the creation of this policy. However, we would like to see it go farther, and have it apply to all fossil fuels. We also have a difference of opinion on the time-frame under which IFC needs to require its equity clients to get to zero exposure to coal, which they have set at 2030.

Overall, we have three major concerns with the GES, as currently designed: GES applies to only 20 per cent of the IFC’s financial intermediary investments – that is, to its equity clients. The rest is ‘ring-fenced’ for specific purposes. We don’t have a high-degree of confidence that these ring-fences are actually legitimate. They are not legally binding, trace-able, or externally audited. These are the minimum standards that we feel should apply to ring fencing.

Coal and other category-A projects also need to be excluded from the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) category for IFC investments. There is not currently an exclusion for these. Serious human rights abuses should be on the exclusion list. Some commercial banks have added policies in this regard, so why shouldn’t the IFC?

Finally, what ringfencing still does is free up money for banks to fund other bad things. That’s why we want the requirements of the GES to apply to all financial intermediary clients, not just equity ones, so that they are all required to exit their coal investments.

Lastly, not satisfied with progress on the transparency front. Need to ensure that information on sub-projects that re being financed through intermediaries by IFC is available to affected communities.

Finally, remedy remains rare. Too often when IFC investments in financial intermediaries attract negative attention, it quickly divests, and leaves affected communities in the dust, with no recourse. There needs to be a separate fund set up in order to provide remedy to those negatively impacted by IFC investments.

Aaron Pedrosa: As David mentioned, the Philippines Movement for Climate Justice filed a complaint to CAO, in relation to 19 coal plants funded by Rizal. The complaint to CAO was accepted for 11 of the plants, with CAO finding bond underwriting an illegible form of support in relation to the other eight coal plants named in the complaint. We were disappointed by this, as bond underwriting is an important form of support that allows these projects to move forward.

These projects are part of a larger coal construction boom happening in the Philippines, with over 80 coal plants planned across the country. This will make us even more vulnerable to risks from climate change. We are already one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change: When Typhoon Haiyan hit in 2013, my family nearly lost our house. We could have perished.

These coal plants supported by IFC have resulted in widespread community opposition, which has been met with repression from authorities. One community activist was murdered, and others have experienced harassment.

The World Bank Group needs to address these wider impacts. We call on IFC to use its influence as an investor to stop the construction of the four coal-power plants that are part of the complaint, where construction hasn’t started yet.

Gabriela Azuela: The climate and energy goals of the World Bank are really underpinned by very clear any precise strategy. The World Bank’s Energy Directions paper released in 2013, its Climate Change Action Plan (2016-2020), which had very ambitious targets for increasing the level of climate-related investments, and the Bank’s 2025 climate targets announced last year at COP24 (see Observer Spring 2019), are all very comprehensive, and are guiding the World Bank’s approach to climate and energy issues.

Also, in 2017 we announced that we would no longer be funding upstream oil and gas projects after 2019, and there are currently no upstream oil and gas projects in the pipeline for IDA or IBRD [the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Bank’s middle-income lending arm], so this commitment is being implemented. We have not supported any coal project finance since 2010; and we don’t have anything in the pipeline.

From 2014-2018, our support for renewable energy and energy efficiency was $11.8 billion [NB: under the World Bank’s definition, this includes hydro-power projects]. Improving supply side efficiency is a big priority of this area of Bank lending.

We have a very vibrant and important climate-related portfolio. We are also trying to assist in developing the policy frameworks needed for the low-carbon transition, for example through supporting countries in strengthening their NDCs. We are also working on an Energy Transition for Asia programme targeting six Asian countries with the largest energy needs, where coal is a big piece of the current energy mix, to try to move them towards a low-carbon pathway.

Jürgen Zattler: Gabriela, maybe you can provide us with an update on where you stand on the World Bank’s approach to Paris Alignment?

Gabriela Azuela: The multilateral development banks as a whole are still working on their joint approach. The Paris Agreement is all about reducing GHG. We really follow a holistic approach, when we approach our clients, and we’re very mindful of NDCs and other efforts. We’re really look at the big picture, and how they can reduce to net zero emissions by 2050.

Peer Stein: We are running short of time, so I will just a highlight a few points so that we can save some time for discussion. IFC’s engagement through financial intermediaries is quite significant, as there are certain areas that are really hard for us to invest in if we apply our project criteria, especially SMEs [small and middle-sized enterprises].

Further to David’s comments about ring-fencing – we do have a system for looking at the development impacts of our financial intermediaries. We have a pretty decent sense of what our banks are doing, with respect to areas that fall outside of the ring-fenced loans.

In terms of widening the exclusion list – could we get agreement on the Board to do this? I’m not sure. The support for the Green Equity Strategy when we presented in to the Board earlier this year was ‘mixed’ (see Observer Summer 2019). But, IFC management is committed to the policy, and we are starting to implement it.

As we’ve discussed with CSOs already, for the Green Equity Strategy, we’re committed to do a review at the end of 2021, so there’s a possibility of broadening it out then to include some of the other aspects that have been discussed.

Audience Q&A:

EU delegation to Washington DC representative: Does the Bank have a strategy to work on NDCs that are aligned with the Paris Agreement? As the IPCC 1.5°C report last year showed, NDC commitments would still result in 3°C of average warming relative to pre-industrial temperatures.

SustainUS representative: Will IFC’s current portfolio get us to a 1.5°C future?

Gen Connors, World Bank Group: I’ll just say a few words on Paris Alignment as I am here in the audience. We have a very close working group among MDBs that I am a part of, and we are working together on a joint Paris Agreement alignment process. It’s actually very difficult to come up with a definitive list of aligned and non-aligned activities that can be applied to every country, as different countries are on different trajectories to achieving a low-carbon future by 2050. There will be an announcement coming at COP25, which will provide an update on where we are as MDBs in developing our joint approach to Paris alignment. We’ll continue to work on further aspects of the MDBs Paris alignment process in 2020.

Peer Stein: The methodologies for Paris alignment are still emerging. Is our portfolio aligned with the Paris Agreement? Right now, we’re not sure. It depends on how the global climate budget is broken down to the national level, and other factors.

Jürgen Zattler: This issue of Paris alignment is key. The world community came together to come up with these objectives. I think the World Bank Group is the organisation that has to take the lead in determining how to do this. From the perspective of Germany, we are very much looking for this, and if Bank can’t do it, our support for climate activities will have to be directed to a different multilateral organisation, I’m not sure which one, but we’ll have to figure out something different.

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Environment

News

Landmark climate-change complaint against IFC lodged in Philippines

The Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) makes history by filing first ever climate-related complaint against the IFC with the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO).

6 December 2017

Environment

Analysis

Confronted with climate emergency, IMF belatedly attempts to "get real"

Fund turns its attention to carbon pricing to support Paris Agreement alignment, as climate vulnerable countries see rising cost of climate impacts.

30 July 2019

Environment

News

IFC’s Green Equity Strategy faces set-back at Board

As climate crisis deepens, IFC’s Green Equity Strategy faces delay from World Bank’s Board, with CSO activists calling Board’s foot-dragging a ‘scandal’.

30 July 2019

Environment

News

Despite new 2025 climate targets, World Bank's Paris Agreement alignment remains work in progress

Bank releases new targets for 'climate-related investments' between 2021-2025, but fails to introduce new restrictions on fossil fuel finance.

4 April 2019

Environment

News

As climate crisis bites, World Bank further distances itself from coal

International Finance Corporation announced new ‘green equity’ policy to encourage financial intermediaries to divest from coal, while Bank pulled plug on mooted Kosovo coal project.

6 December 2018

Environment

News

Shared prosperity? WBG fails to progress on energy access for poor

A new civil society report criticises the World Bank for not doing enough to help meet Sustainable Energy for All (SEforAll) objective of achieving universal energy access by 2030.

6 December 2017

Environment

News

Flirting with disaster? World Bank's push for climate insurance questioned

The World Bank continues to push climate and disaster insurance programmes, despite concerns that such schemes are being ‘oversold’ and do not address the root challenges of making countries more resilient to climate change.

28 September 2017