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October 18th 2017 print

Rupert Darwall

The World Bank’s Green Betrayal

When Barack Obama appointed Jim Yong Kim as the institution's president, the emphasis switched from lifting the world's poor out of poverty to prioritising 'environmental sustainability', not least by banning Third World investment in cheap, reliable power sources

world bankFor evidence that wind and solar energy wind and solar push up energy costs, wreak havoc on the investment needed to keep the lights on and compromise grid security, look no further than South Australia. The state has faced crippling black-outs, spiralling energy bills and fleeing businesses. Rich countries that have already built their grids can throw money at the problems created by weather dependent wind and solar. Poor countries that are still building out their grids don’t have that luxury. Why, then, would anyone think it sensible to push these expensive, flawed technologies down the throats of vulnerable developing countries?

Cheap, universal access to reliable grid power is the single most powerful boost to economic development and improving the lives of the world’s poor. The World Bank’s mission is to free the world of poverty. Yet under its current president, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, appointed by President Obama in 2012, the World Bank abandoned its core development mission and now prioritises environmental sustainability over poverty reduction. In 2013, it adopted anti-coal funding policies, effectively blocking investment in what, for many developing nations, is likely to be the cheapest and most reliable generating capacity. The World Bank’s near categoric refusal to finance coal-fired capacity is worsened by it favouring high-cost, unreliable wind and solar technologies.

The World Bank justifies doing this in order to cut global emissions of greenhouse gases. But poor people in developing countries consume very little power. Their per capita consumption of coal can be measured in kilograms and pounds (in the case of Bangladesh, in ounces). The World Bank admits that the incremental greenhouse gas emissions from extending access to the grid to the world’s poor “will not make a material difference.” That being the case, the World Bank’s anti-coal/pro-renewable policy is morally and economically indefensible. For those genuinely worried by the prospect of anthropogenic global warming, enabling the energy-starved in the world’s developing nations is genuinely not a problem.

The World Bank’s own analysis also highlights the extra costs caused by the variability of wind and solar output and the extra grid infrastructure they need. In spite of this analysis, the World Bank decided to from a “unique partnership” with the then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the 2011 Sustainable Energy For All initiative (SE4ALL). This set an arbitrary target of doubling renewables’ contribution to the global energy mix by 2030. Mr. Ban’s own numbers show why the World Bank made a colossal blunder: According to Mr. Ban, universal energy access has a price tag of $50bn a year. Renewable energy costs $500bn a year and a further $500bn a year for energy efficiency. To any objective analyst, these numbers should have settled the matter.

In giving its support to Mr. Ban’s aim of doubling renewables’ share in the energy mix, the World Bank went much further than the UN General Assembly, which in a March 2013 resolution noted that renewable technologies had yet to achieve economic viability. The UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, agreed in September 2015, also watered down SE4ALL’s renewable energy target. When the governments of the world finalised the text of the December 2015 Paris Agreement, they removed references to renewable energy from the draft circulated by the French conference president.

Leaders in the developing world blast the West’s apparent hypocrisy in denying them the energy that made them rich. The West’s industrialisation was built on coal, notes Nigeria’s finance minster, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun. Yet when Africa wants to use coal, the developed world says, “you have to use solar and the wind which are the most expensive.” There’s a similar story in Asia. At last month’s ASEAN+3 meeting in Manila, energy ministers affirmed the need to achieve energy security with economic efficiency and environmental sustainability before going on to recognise that “coal continues to be a major fuel source in the region.”  The communiqué calls for continued public financial support for new coal-fired power stations and promoting of the newest clean coal technologies, including high efficiency coal-fired generation.

The World Bank’s self-imposed embargo on coal financing has opened up the field to rivals like China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Australia is also an investor in the AIIB. Responding to pressure from the Turnbull government, its lending guidelines allow it to support the latest generation of highly efficient, low emission coal fired power stations. As the world’s largest coal exporter, Australian mining jobs are on the line. So is the welfare of the world’s poor. It is irresponsible for a multilateral development bank to push high-cost, operationally defective technologies onto nations which will retard development and make electrification vastly more expensive.

Complaints from its customers and the arrival of a powerful competitor show how badly adrift the World Bank has become under Dr Kim’s leadership. The World Bank should not be the plaything of eco-fundamentalists and renewable energy lobbyists. At this week’s annual meeting of the World Bank, the United States is seeking to rein in the World Bank so it focuses on its mission to alleviate world poverty by helping countries access and use fossil fuels more efficiently.

It is up to the World Bank’s shareholders to rescue the World Bank from itself by requiring it to desist from its inhumane and senseless attempt to try to save the planet on the backs of the world’s poor. The World Bank’s mission is straightforward. It is to alleviate poverty. The sooner it reverts to its true mission, the sooner all the world’s poor can realise the dream of cheap, reliable power.

Rupert Darwall is the author of The Anti-Development Bank: The World Bank’s Regressive Energy Policies published this week by the Global Warming Policy Foundation

Comments [9]

  1. Bill Martin says:

    The “Climate Girl” and her like-minded cohort – plus one regular commenter on these pages – would be outraged by this article. Besides their outrage, though, they would have absolutely nothing to offer that would in any way counter the stark reality highlighted by the essay.

    • ianl says:

      Although not directly on the World Bank issue, a request for the EPA ruling on CO2 as a pollutant to be rescinded is seen here:

      https://thsresearch.files.wordpress.com/2017/10/letter-to-pruitt-signed-final-101617.pdf

      If one one peruses the list of those who signed it, it will take a very large number of fictitious ad-homs to maintain *the consensus*. Nonetheless, I’m sure our activists are up to it. If the World Bank can do it …

    • Ian MacDougall says:

      Bill:
      Sorry to be such a disappointment to you, but I happen to agree. Except that this article is dead wrong about South Australia, whose massive electricity outage was due to storm damage to the Interconnector, which enables SA to access Victorian (coal-fired) power.
      Power pylons crashing to Earth in a massive storm cannot be sheeted home to the diabolical evil of renewables, except perhaps in the minds of the most highly suggestible members of the Ostrich School of Climatology, for whom of course, anything is possible.

      When Barack Obama appointed Jim Yong Kim as the institution’s president, the emphasis switched from lifting the world’s poor out of poverty to prioritising ‘environmental sustainability’, not least by banning Third World investment in cheap, reliable power sources.
      For evidence that wind and solar energy wind and solar push up energy costs, wreak havoc on the investment needed to keep the lights on and compromise grid security, look no further than South Australia. The state has faced crippling black-outs, spiralling energy bills and fleeing businesses.

      ALSO, this article does nothing to alter the properties of CO2, nor its ability to trap heat, (as so brilliantly displayed by the atmosphere of Venus, hottest planet in the Solar System and with an atmosphere of almost 100% CO2.)
      So conceding, as I incline to do, that poor countries lacking much of an alternative, should have first call on coal-fired electricity generation, it remains beyond my power to negate the physics and chemistry of CO2 and the inclination of that product of all combustion to absorb heat, melt glaciers and in due course, raise sea levels and the average temperature of the whole planet.
      Sorry to disappoint you, old mate.

      Global Mean Sea Level Rates
      CU: 3.3 ± 0.4 mm/yr
      AVISO: 3.3 ± 0.6 mm/yr
      CSIRO: 3.3 ± 0.4 mm/yr
      NASA GSFC: 3.2 ± 0.4 mm/yr
      NOAA: 3.2 ± 0.4 mm/yr (w/ GIA)

      http://sealevel.colorado.edu/

      NB: I have in the past on this curate’s egg of a site, been accused by local identities of being boringly repetitious by repeatedly trotting this out. But I have only ever done so in response to boringly repetitious, patently pro-fossil fuels, anti-renewables AGW denialism of the sort featured here.
      Did I say repetitious? That too.
      Like it or not, CO2 is a proven heat-trapper of a gas. And the planet is warming, spelt W-A-R-M-I-N-G.
      Warming.

      • Geoff_R says:

        Oh Ian… I cannot let this one go!
        (1) Yes the winds blow down the interconnect power lines… but this is not why the power went out. Due to the loss of the interconnect, SA was reliant on its own power source. There was a lack of stable power source causing massive fluctuations, which in turn caused the safety system to trip.
        (2) I am glad you are quoting the measured results of sea level rise. … this shows, and has been consistent since accurate satellite measurements started, an average sea level rise of 3.3mm per year…. that’s 33mm per decade or 330mm per century. Not the 2 to 5 meters being predicted by the IPCC
        (3) Also … where does this sea rise come from? Have you ever wondered why there was so much ho-har about the original Jocky Stick graph presented by Prof Mann? That’s because he eliminated the little ice age… where is was much colder. So what would you expect as you come out of the little ice age….you would expect it to worm and the sea to rise. Also note people were observing the ice recession in the Himalayas last century…. as you would expect.
        (3) C02 – you appear not to understand the AGW/C02/IPCC argument. No one is denying that CO2 is a green house gas. It is generally accepted that CO2 will cause about 1degree of warming

  2. Keith Kennelly says:

    Still haven’t seen the satellite data on the NASA site that showing falling sea levels over the past 3 years have you Ian?

    You are a denier Ian and repetitious too mate.
    It is quite simple Ian, all you have to do is go there and see the graphs Ian.

    Nobody denies CO2 isn’t heat trapping it’s just that the quantities of co2? in the atmosphere can’t trap enough heat to warm the earth’s temperatures. Ergo the pause for the past couple of decades while volumes of co2 increase.

    But of course you’re a denier so …

  3. Ian, as i have posted elsewhere – why all the fuss over CO2 being a ‘Greenhouse’ gas? The  climate on earth is  ‘livable’ for its many life forms only because of the effects of those demonised ‘greenhouse gases’, the major one of which is WATER VAPOUR. Water vapour comprises 97% of the earth’s greenhouse gases and is responsible for 95% of the ‘greenhouse effect’. Without the ‘greenhouse effect ‘ the earth’s temperature would be  approximately minus 15 degrees C.
    Carbon dioxide CO2] is plant food and is a minor, almost INSIGNIFICANT greenhouse gas, at around 3% of the greenhouse gases and responsible for about 5% of the greenhouse effect. If we doubled the CO2 level in the atmosphere the temperature would only rise by about ONE degree C. Around 50% of the greenhouse effect of CO2 occurs in the first 20ppm.
    According to satellite data, the world had got a lot greener and agricultural production/output has risen greatly over the past two decades due to the slight rise in CO2. More, the use of coal for energy has been the greatest tree saving event in the history of mankind, so the GREENS [actually REDS] should be promoting coal not demonising it.

    • Ian MacDougall says:

      Around 50% of the greenhouse effect of CO2 occurs in the first 20ppm.

      I suggest you tell that to the inhabitants of the planet Venus, if you can contact any. Atmosphere ~ 98% CO2, and surface hotter even than that of Mercury: closest planet to the Sun.
      The increasing use of (choke! caaargh! splutter! hawk! spit!*) renewables will be the greatest coal saving ‘event’ ever, leaving the coal for far more practical uses, such as road tar through the generations of the future.