MAC: Mines and Communities

World Bank Chief Says Clean Energy a Vital Issue

Published by MAC on 2007-04-13

World Bank Chief Says Clean Energy a Vital Issue

PlanetArk US

13th April 2007

WASHINGTON - Clean energy, renewable energy and climate change may well become the World Bank's main focus in years to come despite the issue's absence from the lender's formal agenda at its meeting this weekend, President Paul Wolfowitz said on Thursday.

"We had clean energy on the formal agenda in the fall. It will come up again this coming fall. It's a major focus of the bank's work and it might well be the principal focus of the bank in a few years from now," Wolfowitz told reporters.

World Bank spring meetings start in earnest at the weekend, and member countries' development ministers plan to discuss clean energy and energy efficiency informally over lunch on Sunday.

An official from an industrialized country familiar with preparations for the World Bank's weekend agenda said policy positions are evolving and it was decided that an informal discussion of climate change and energy was the most promising means to perhaps reach a consensus among the 185 members.

A World Bank report last year found that current financing from multilateral lenders like the Washington-based bank as well as governments and the private sector "cannot lead to a meaningful transition to a low-carbon economy."

Public concerns have mounted as unusual weather patterns have been reported around the globe from unseasonably warm and cold weather to drought and well-above-average rainfall.

"It's a big subject. It's not lack of interest. It's not lack of consensus. Everyone agrees it's important. I think the discussion at lunch (on Sunday) should help us go forward with a clear understanding of what the ministers feel are the outstanding issues," Wolfowitz said.

The World Bank said it committed US$871 million in renewable energy and energy efficiency programs in the year that ended last June.

It estimates that for every dollar it invests in a project another US$5 is drawn from the private sector, government and others and that developing nations need to invest US$300 billion a year for the next 25 years to meet their energy needs, largely in electric power generation and distribution.

"The poorer countries who are our principal customers are frankly ultimately the ones most affected by climate change, partly because many of them are tropically located but also because if you're living on the edge already a global disturbance pushes you over the edge," Wolfowitz said.

"Maybe the major way that this is going to happen is for investments to come from the developed countries to help poor countries reduce carbon emissions either through reducing deforestation or reducing their dependence on fossil fuels or increasing the efficiency with which they use fossil fuels."

His opening news conference was dominated by questions of conflict of interest in his reassignment of a World Bank staff member Wolfowitz is dating. (Additional reporting by Francesca Landini)

Story by Gilbert Le Gras


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