Activists held demonstrations on Friday outside the World Bank country office in the Philippines to protest the bank’s lending policies that, according to the protesters, “trapped developing countries in climate disasters and unsustainable debt burdens.”
They called on the World Bank to make a total exit from financing fossil fuel projects and cancel the fossil fuel debts of developing countries.
Lidy Nacpil, coordinator of the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD), said the worsening climate and debt crises in many developing countries are “sustained” by the World Bank’s “flawed responses to systemic problems.”
She said the “destructive policies” of the World Bank Group must end.
“The World Bank cannot deny what has long been established by science. Fossil gas and LNG emit harmful air pollutants even before they are burned and burning fossil gas produces greenhouse gasses, especially methane,” said Nacpil in a statement.
“We call for justice for all peoples in climate-stricken and debt-burdened countries in the Global South,” she added.
Civil society groups had been holding protest actions in various countries last week to deliver the call of Global South countries on the World Bank.
Flora Santos of the group Oriang said people are also protesting in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Pakistan “where people are drowning in debt and in climate change-induced floods.”
Pakistan is losing US$50 million a day in debt payments. This year, the flood-stricken country is due to make US$18billion in debt payments to foreign creditors. This figure rises to US$23 billion next year and accounts for 40 percent to 50 percent of government revenue.
Manjette Lopez of Sanlakas said the World Bank is yet to account for exacerbating the climate crisis through lending for fossil fuel projects, as well as contributing to the massive debt of Global South countries.
“While it talks of ‘making debt work for development’ and debt reduction, it provided the biggest direct loans for fossil fuel projects in the last four years,” said Lopez.
The banks’ direct loans for fossil fuel projects amount to nearly US$15 billion from 2018-2021. In 2020 alone, International Finance Corporation was found to have used financial intermediaries to channel money to private actors in 60 percent (or US$6.7 billion) of its entire investment portfolio.
Despite its pledge to align its financial flows with the goals of the Paris Agreement, the World Bank is pouring US$379 billion in new gas infrastructure, according to Trend Asia.
Planned gas investments in Asia include US$189 billion of gas-fired power plants, US$54 billion of gas pipelines, and US$136 billion of new liquefied natural gas (LNG) import and export terminals. If built and run at full capacity, they would push the world way beyond 1.5°C of warming.
The World Bank and IFC have supported gas and LNG energy in Pakistan and financed gas-fired power stations, pipelines and LNG regasification plants in Bangladesh.