Banking on Coal - Only in Rare and Exceptional cases
Yesterday the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) published details of its new energy strategy and a positive development did find its way into a paragraph of the new text. In actuality the change was simply adding the phrase “only in rare and exceptional cases” to the section on financing coal.
It is yet to be seen what ‘rare and exceptional’ means with regard to financing new coal projects, and it feels somewhat strange to be celebrating the inclusion of a few words in a long and complicated document. But we should give credit where credit is due and acknowledge that these victories have to be fought for and from these small steps that we will build the strength to challenge such institutions at increasingly significant levels.
This year, along with partners (CEE Bankwatch, Oil Change International and others), working in countries where EBRD money is invested into fossil fuel projects left, right and centre, we made our voices heard. We handed over a petition signed by almost 17,000 people demanding that coal be removed from the new strategy. We made ourselves heard, and they had to show that they heard.
One thing that is particularly clear however, regardless of the now “rare and exceptional” coal financing that the EBRD will continue to pursue, it is most definitely still not taking the threat of climate change seriously. It may say that it is, but its actions suggest otherwise. The billions it continues to pour into fossil fuel projects suggest otherwise.
A few weeks back in a sleek attempt at deflecting growing criticism the EBRD published a handy little info-graphic. It shows how much they are investing into various energy projects, and includes a breakdown of renewable and fossil fuels. To a quick glance it makes them look progressive and good, but at closer inspection it shows that they are still investing billions into projects that will lock us into fossil fuel use in the future. Examples of this are a mega pipeline, the Euro-Caspian pipeline that would surely have to carry a worrying (for the climate and those that depend on it) amount gas to Europe in order to be commercially profitable, and oil drilling in Egypt both of which will commit us to billions of tonnes of CO2 emissions in the future while diverting important money and resources away from the renewable energy projects that we should really be funding.
So let this small, yet significant win be motivation not only to celebrate, but to organise; to challenge the other projects that the EBRD have in the pipeline (excuse the pun). To demand that public institutions focus on spending public money on building the solutions that we need, not funding the projects that will further exacerbate the problem.