By Piglas Pilipinas & Asian Peoples Movement on Debt & Development

Members of Asian grassroots movements and civil society groups staged a lightning rally at the gates of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Headquarters on the 2nd day of the Bank’s Annual Governors Meeting, bearing signs that call for the international financial institution to “Stop Funding Dirty Energy.”

According to Asian People’s Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD) Coordinator Lidy Nacpil, the protest action served to drive home the urgency of Asian people’s call for ADB to halt all forms of support to dirty fossil fuel energy projects, especially coal plants.

“Each year, our call against the Bank’s support for dirty energy intensifies in urgency. For every inaction towards the problem of fossil fuels, which has been established to be the main driver of climate change, Asian lives and livelihood grow all the more vulnerable as they are situated at the frontline of climate change’s adverse impacts,” said Nacpil.

“However, ADB’s response to our urgent, repeating calls has remained to be that of non-committal lip service,” she added, citing the Asian groups’ “unfruitful” recent engagement with ADB on its Energy Policy.

APMDD Deputy Coordinator Mae Buenaventura stated that the groups’ call for a review of ADB’s old and continuously fossil-fuel-supportive 2009 Energy Policy has been met by a lukewarm response from ADB President Takehiko Nakao, signifying a lack of seriousness on the part of the major financial institution to address pressing concerns of civil society groups and people’s movements regarding the proliferation of dirty energy in the region and in their communities.

“ADB has merely claimed to have instituted restrictions in its 2009 Energy Policy, but these are grossly inadequate in the face of the intensifying climate crisis,” said Buenaventura.

“This non-committal and business-as-usual response to the Asian people’s call for an end to ADB’s support for fossil fuels runs counter to the Bank’s projection of itself as an institution that listens to civil society groups and an institution that champions clean energy,” she added.

According to Buenaventura, the ADB has sought civil society’s input into its 2030 Strategy, but instills none of the changes urged by the groups. Although the Bank recognizes the significance of a number of global development platforms, such as the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, she claimed that the agenda and operations in ADB’s Strategy for 2030 and its Energy Policy show no alignment with them.

“Strategy 2030 makes no new commitments that address civil society concerns,” said Environics Trust India Sreedhar Ramamurthi.

“Worse, for all of ADB’s championing of clean energy, its Strategy 2030 leaves the brunt of work in the pursuit of a clean energy direction to individual countries, while the Bank continues to make funding for fossil fuel available,” Ramamurthi continued.

According to him, ADB’s outdated and unreviewed 2009 Energy Policy also leaves the Bank great room for continuing support for destructive fossil fuel industry activities and false climate solutions.

“Activities that promote continued coal utilization — such as coal bed methane extraction and use, coal gasification, and coal scrubbers — along with the push for the myth of clean coal energy through the practice of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) are all proliferating with green light from a supposed pro-clean energy ADB,” said Ramamurthi.

Philippine Movement for Climate Justice National Coordinator Ian Rivera called out the Bank’s record of financing coal projects that reached $10.735 billion from 2009-2017. Rivera brought attention to projects such as the  Mundra Ultra Mega Power Project in India, Korea Electric Power Corporation’s 200-MW coal-fired power plant in Cebu province, the Masinloc Power Partners Ltd.’s 600-MW coal-fired thermal power plant in Zambales province and the 552-MW coal-fired power plant in Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte.

“Clearly, the Bank’s failure to adjust its energy policies and strategies is a result of its continued, strong financial interest in coal-based power projects,” said Rivera.

“Amidst the fact that these projects emit millions of tons of CO2 each year and that there are global and community efforts to reject fossil fuels which ADB recognizes, the Bank’s financial interest in coal remains unbudged,” he continued.

According to Rivera, ADB’s continued inaction on pressing global climate demands has incited further determination and commitment from climate and energy justice activists to press for the transformation of energy systems in Asia.

“We challenge ADB, an institution which claims to be for Asian people’s development, to stop being an obstacle to this process of energy transformation and to align itself with the agenda of the Asian people — individuals and communities on the ground that have been impacted most by ADB’s policies and strategies,” he said.

“Development, the end of poverty, and the addressing of climate change can be achieved not through ADB’s business-as-usual approach, but through proactive strides towards clean, renewable and democratic systems,” he continued.

As a continuation of Asian civil society groups’ effort to compel ADB’s rethinking of its energy policies and strategies, groups have also reportedly handed over a letter — signed by nearly 150 Asian organizations and networks, which has been endorsed and supported by organizations from other parts of the globe — to the ADB President and Board of Governors.