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Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright: The World Bank Undermines Own Conservation Efforts With Fossil Fuel Projects

This is a joint posting with Vijaya Ramachandran
The World Bank Group's board appears to be operating under a severe case of cognitive dissonance, supporting efforts to save tigers - threatened in India and Bangladesh by habitat loss due to climate change - while helping build coal-fired power plants that will only speed up this process.
Back in June the Bank launched a campaign to help governments develop and better manage forests inhabited by endangered tigers, including in the Sunderbans. This massive mangrove forest spans the India-Bangladesh border and is home to the Bengal tiger. While the Bank has a less-than-stellar conservation track record in Sunderbans, more important is the fact that this impoverished World Heritage site would be one of the hardest hit by climate change, whether from rising sea levels or the disappearance of the glacier that feeds the Ganges river.
But the Bank's commitment to poverty reduction and biodiversity stands in stark contrast to its bread-and-butter financing choices. As the Bank planned its save-the-tiger campaign, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Bank's private sector arm, was putting together a deal to finance $450 million of the misguided $4+ billion Tata Mundra Ultra Mega coal-fired plant in India. Financing 10% of the cost of a plant being built by India's largest company will help propel India's power sector emissions to third highest in the world within a few years, behind China and the U.S. Is this a smart use of scarce international public resources?

Another Banner Year for IFC -- NOW Is The Time for A Big Push into Renewable Energy

This is a joint posting with David Wheeler
The International Finance Corporation, the private sector investment arm of the World Bank, is set to have yet another banner year with profits in the range of $2 billion. As the IFC's equity stakes in services, telecommunications and particularly in oil and gas have grown, so have its profits. In FY07, IFC invested more than $8 billion of its own money and mobilized nearly $4 billion more. In Sub-Saharan Africa, it invested about $1.4 billion, doubling its investments from the previous year. In FY08, these numbers look to be even larger. If the IFC continues on its current path, in five years its portfolio will be larger than that of the World Bank itself.

House Committee Tells U.S. Treasury to Heed Calls for Redesign of Clean Tech Fund

Controversy over the World Bank's proposed design for a multibillion dollar Clean Technology Fund (CTF) reached a House subcommittee last week. When the hearing ended, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), the chairman of the subcommittee, voiced support for CGD senior fellow David Wheeler's scenario for a successful fund. Wheeler had urged that the CTF be redesigned to rapidly drive down the price of zero-emissions renewable power so that it becomes cheaper than electricity from coal and other fossil fuels -- thereby helping to avert a climate disaster.

CGD's David Wheeler Outlines Strategic Path for Clean Tech Fund in Congressional Testimony

The U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Subcommittee on Domestic and International Policy, Trade, and Technology held a hearing yesterday afternoon to examine the Bush administration's proposal to establish a multilateral Clean Technology Fund. CGD senior fellow David Wheeler was among the panel of witnesses invited to testify on the U.S. commitment of $2 billion over three years and whether the World Bank is a suitable home for these scarce financial resources.

Climate Change in Nashville: A Gathering Storm for the World Bank?

I spent last Thursday with Al Gore and dozens of colleagues at the Climate Change Solutions Summit, near Gore's home in Nashville, Tennessee. Gore led several jam-packed sessions, whose common theme was the search for ways out of the impasse on climate change. Some sessions took the long view, searching for clues in the history of the industrial revolution and successful social reform movements. Others, like my own session, focused on concrete steps that can be taken now.

Lost in Translation: How to Transform Good Intentions into Poor Policy and Ensure a Climate Crisis (A Primer by the World Bank)

Three months ago, the finance ministers of the U.S., UK, and Japan introduced a Clean Technology Fund to be administered by the World Bank in an effort to "help developing countries bridge the gap between dirty and clean technology."1 Smart and strategic use of limited clean technology financing is absolutely critical if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change.

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