That climate change is occurring globally with disastrous consequences, and that unsustainable economic policies are to blame, is no longer under question. The real issue now is not only how do we solve this crisis, but also who — who is most apt to take the lead in tackling climate change.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) seems like a sensible candidate. Last December, at the Climate Change Conference in Bali, Parties to the UNFCCC established a multilateral fund to provide technological assistance to developing countries. The G77 + China, as well as over a hundred civil society groups worldwide, are backing this initiative because it is grounded in the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities.” Essentially, it mandates developed countries, as historical polluters with higher technological and economic capabilities, to take on the largest share of responsibility and leadership in combating climate change.
Contestant #2 is the World Bank. This past week, Oct. 13-17, the World Bank held a series of meetings in Washington, DC to discuss the implementation of its new initiative against climate change, the Climate Investment Funds (CIFs). In the Bank’s own words, these funds “will enable a dynamic partnership between the MDBs (Multilateral Development Banks) and developing countries to undertake investments that achieve a country's development goals through a transition to a climate-resilient economy and a low carbon development path.”
This proposal is under harsh criticism by developing countries for putting the global fight against climate change under the Bank’s inequitable governance structure. The G77 + China condemned the Bank for diverting attention and financing away from the more democratic and transparent UNFCCC proposal. Ten of the world’s richest countries have already pledged over $6 billion to the CIFs; about a third of this number was pledged by the US. “There is clearly money for climate actions, which is the good news, but the bad news is it is in the hands of institutions that do not necessarily serve the objectives of the Convention [on Climate Change],” said Bernaditas Muller, chief negotiator for the G77 + China.
Some 140 grassroots organizations from rich and poor countries signed the Global Civil Society Statement on World Bank Climate Investment Funds, urging the Bank to halt its project until a number of concerns are addressed. “The current rush to establish the CIFs could lead to establishing top-down funds that fail to promote the vital, wider environmental and development benefits and sustainable transformation required to address climate change.”
In July, a statement by organizations affilitated with the G8 Action Network voiced “very serious concerns that the funds would be heavily oriented toward funding large-scale coal plants. Without a clear definition of clean technology, the funds may be used to finance projects that do not clearly mitigate climate change or may take up resources that bring only minor or incremental change at a time that fundamental change is needed… With $2 billion already spent on coal, oil and gas projects over the last year, the World Bank has broken its own record as the world’s largest multilateral financier of greenhouse-emitting energy initiatives. Even as it pretends to deal with climate change with its Climate Investment Funds, the Bank is actually exacerbating it with its massive fossil fuel extraction lending.”