After a string of bad news about fossil fuel companies shirking responsibility and our politicians following suit, it's hard to believe that it's happened again. Today, over the objectinos of tens of thousands of community members and over 190+ civil society groups, the World Bank board of directors voted to approve a $3.75 billion loan to South African national utility Eskom for a massive 4800 MW coal-fired power plant. it's the largest loan of the kind made in history, and it didn't come without a fight.

Yesterday, dozens of activists in Washington DC joined with tens of thousands of concerned people around the world calling on the World Bank to reject the dirty loan, and to prevent catastrophic climate change while dealing ensuring decent lives for the poor of South Africa. Here's a video from the event: campaigners, along with allies in the US and South Africa, have been working tirelessly to put pressure on the World Bank and the United States — the Bank's largest shareholder — to reject the loan and instead invest in clean, profitable renewable power and energy efficiency. In addition, the loan represents a conflict of interest, with the ANC (South Africa's ruling party) invested in Hitachi South Africa, the manufacturer of the plant's turbines. The ANC stands to gain $1 billion on the deal, while the poorest are facing electricity price increases of up to 200% over the next three years.
While we may have lost this fight, a few pieces of news show that the US Treasury and the World Bank didn't take the decision lightly, and will consider future coal projects more carefully:
* The US Treasury sent a letter indicating that it abstained from voting on the loan, condemning the plan, and raising "…concerns about the climate impact of the project and its incompatibility with the World Bank's commitment to be a leader in climate change mitigation and adaptation."
* Netherlands, UK, Italy and Norway also abstained from the vote, which is unprecedented.
* Powerful US legislators Patrick Leahy, John Kerry and Barney Frank raised concerns about the loan and other fossil fuel loans moving forward.
* Civil society groups from around the world effectively shined the spotlight on the World Bank's poor lending practices and South Africa's corrupt and mismanaged energy sector.

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