Dr. Kim has declared the world must do more to address climate change. His lofty rhetoric has soared over that of previous presidents drawing widespread support for his progressive stance. But for those who follow this institution closely one thing has always been true – talk is cheap. That’s why all eyes are now focused on whether Dr. Kim backs this talk up by rejecting a highly controversial new coal plant in the eastern European country of Kosovo.
What should make Dr. Kim’s decision cut and dry are recent coal finance restrictions the World Bank put in place that got it on the right side of history. These restrictions essentially ended the institutions support for the most carbon intensive and destructive source of electricity there are, or as Grist blogger David Roberts calls it – the enemy of the human race. But rather than adhere to these restrictions, let alone his own calls to address climate change, Dr. Kim is allowing the World Bank to pave the way for support for yet another coal plant, this time in Kosovo.
Roughly three years ago the World Bank began considering a partial loan guarantee for the construction of a new coal plant in Kosovo on the baseless assertion that this nation was a renewable energy wasteland. The problem is of course it’s not. In fact, the Bank’s own former chief clean energy czar, Dr. Dan Kammen, has released a study showing not only can Kosovo end its energy deficit with clean energy, it can do so more cheaply and produce more jobs than by building a coal plant. But rather than listen to his own former staff Dr. Kim, a public health champion, has made embarrassing statements about Kosovars ‘freezing to death’ helping to justify involvement in this controversial project.
Kosovars have not responded kindly to the idea that their country, on course to join the European Union, has advanced so little that their citizens are freezing and dying in the streets. That’s why local civil society led by KOSID has waged a campaign for several years demanding Dr. Kim make good on his rhetoric and help move their country onto a clean energy path that aligns with the rest of the EU. From high profile public service announcements about the health and economic impacts of this ill-advised project to projecting their demand for no new coal in Kosovo on the World Bank’s building in Washington D.C. Kosovar citizens have made their opinion abundantly clear.
The problem is Dr. Kim isn’t listening. Instead the World Bank is conducting an environmental and social impact assessment that will pave the way for a final board vote that would approve millions of dollars for yet another coal plant. Worse, there are now rumors that in addition to providing a loan guarantee the institution may double down and invest directly in the plant given the relative lack of interest from the private sector.
But it’s not over yet. Across the world civil society groups are banding together to draw a line in the sand. It’s no longer enough to simply make strong statements about climate. It’s time to walk the walk. So let Dr. Kim know you’re watching to see if he passes his climate test.
Join us in sending him a message on twitter today — just click on the sample tweets below, or send your own tweets @WorldBank with the hashtag #climatetest: