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Blog 26.10.20: World Bank Annual Meetings - Bolder Action Needed

The World Bank Annual meetings which took place virtually last week, saw calls from Big Shift Coalition members and many others for the bank to green its COVID-19 response, to stop funding fossil fuels and contribute to building the world we want.


While President Malpass, who has been notably muted on climate since his appointment by President Trump in 2019, does appear to be paying more attention to climate issues and referred to low-carbon recovery in two of his speeches, there is still a long way to go to see the bank truly promoting a green, sustainable and just recovery.

There has been no backsliding on climate commitments but equally there have been no advances from the World Bank in stopping fossil fuel finance or on investment in renewable energy that is accessible by all. Preliminary data in Oil Change International’s Shift the Subsidies database shows the WBG has financed at least USD 1.0 billion in new fossil fuel projects during the recovery, while a new report from Urgewald details at least USD 12 billion in fossil fuel support since the Paris Climate deal in 2015. And this does not reflect further support via financial intermediaries, budget support, and associated facilities that is not possible to track.

 Big Shift members organised two virtual side events as part of the Civil Society Policy Forum: the first highlighting the need to stop funding fossil fuels and the arguments against gas as a bridging fuel and the second emphasising the importance of renewable energy and energy access for all being an integral part of the recovery in Africa. Recordings of both are available here

Also, the Big Shift campaign during the World Bank Annual meetings saw hundreds of emails sent to bank Executive Directors calling for an end to financing of fossil fuels, increased investment in renewable energy access for all and for the bank to work with the other multilateral development banks (MDBs) on their joint alignment to the Paris Agreement. 

 Finally, Big Shift Global Coalition members were also widely involved in the #WBOutofFossils Action Day, as part of wider civil society efforts to push the Bank to end support for fossil fuels.

But it wasn’t just civil society calling for a green and just recovery:

  •  IMF research presented during the week showed that "Official aid for climate change adaptation would have to more than double the $10 billion allocated currently to around $25 billion to finance the public investments required for adaptation to climate change in low-income countries." 
  • A letter from European ministers and the European Commissioner for International Partnerships called for the World Bank and the IMF to spearhead a green recovery. It mentioned, “We need to urgently phase out investments in coal, oil and gas, while redirecting funds to green jobs and access to renewable energy. 
  • The UK government in its statement to the Development Committee during the meetings, noted, “we believe now is the time for the WBG to focus on using its response to COVID-19 to work with client countries to build a greener, more inclusive and resilient recovery. …These plans should include investments which both support economic recovery and help countries towards a lower carbon future. [...] We also call on the World Bank, IFC and MIGA to set a clear timeframe aligning their investments with the Paris Agreement.

The message is clear, the World Bank could and should be taking bold action to make the big shift out of fossil fuels and into sustainable, renewable energy for all as part of its recovery efforts to Covid-19. Big Shift will continue to campaign for decisive action focusing on the upcoming Finance in Common Summit where the World Bank along with the other MDBs and other public development banks will be discussing the COVID-19 recovery.