Blog 12.10.20 World Bank Annual Meetings – Investments in fossil fuels are not acceptable

12 October 2020

The 2020 World Bank Annual meetings are taking place virtually this week in the context of the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, the increasing impacts of the climate crisis and the growing calls for a just recovery that tackles these overlapping crises.

The Big Shift campaign is urging the World Bank to take bold decisions during the 2020 annual meetings to ensure the spending of public money as part of the COVID recovery is not making the climate crisis worse but ensuring a green, sustainable just recovery for all. The choices made now will have an impact for years to come.

The World Bank (and all of the multilateral development banks) must ensure a people-centred urgent response to COVID-19 that helps the world’s most vulnerable populations to face up to multiple crises. A lack of modern energy access in many places has meant people are even more vulnerable to COVID-19 for example, health centres lacking electricity or people using charcoal, wood or coal for cooking which can make respiratory illnesses worse. At the same time, the impacts of the climate crisis – fires, stronger storms, flooding continue.

The World Bank has a lot more to do to ensure it is not exacerbating the climate crisis. Big Shift Global member Urgewald has presented statistics this week demonstrating the shocking amount of funds from the World Bank Group that are flowing to fossil fuels. An article in Bloomberg news presents Urgewald’s findings, describing how the bank has spent more than $12 billion on such projects since the Paris Agreement to combat global warming was adopted in 2015.

The Big Shift has three key demands for the World Bank during their meetings this week:

  1. An immediate end to direct and indirect financing of all fossil fuels, including support through development policy lending, ‘associated facilities,’ and financial intermediaries. Fossil fuel support via financial intermediaries can be ended by expanding the Green Equity Approach beyond coal to include oil and gas.


  1. To rapidly scale up investment in energy access and a just transition. WBG should align all lending and operations with high-probability pathways to 1.5°C and universal energy access. They should commit to delivering at least 75 million off-grid connections by 2025. At the project level, their renewable investments must ensure the free, prior, and informed consent of impacted communities.


  1. Work with its peers to announce a joint MDB framework on alignment with 1.5°C by the end of 2020 with no further delay, and a high ambition coalition at the Finance in Common summit for ending fossil fuel finance from all public finance institutions.

During their meetings this week, the World Bank will also be discussing some specific points which Big Shift members would like to highlight.

Climate must be included within the detailed COVID-19 response: climate must feature prominently in the communique of the Development Committee of Finance Ministers and must be mainstreamed in the updated World Bank Group COVID-19 Crisis Response Approach Paper[i]The Bank must also make public a framework outlining how it defines ‘green prior actions’, in conjunction with the ongoing Development Policy Financing Retrospective being conducted by the Bank’s Operations Policy and Country Services unit.

The IFC as chair of the joint MDB working group must give an update. As the IFC currently chairs the MDBs’ Paris Alignment working group, it should give a public update on the progress made under its leadership to date in 2020, and re-confirm that the MDBs will issue a joint statement highlighting key developments in the process by the end of 2020, as promised at COP25.

Investment in clean energy in Africa must be a part of a just recovery. The World Bank’s forthcoming Africa energy approach must support African countries to prioritise renewable energy investment, to help increase energy access across the continent, rather than locking countries into dirty fossil fuel infrastructure’. It must also include a robust civil society consultation.

The clock is ticking. Investments in fossil fuels which exacerbate the climate crisis are not acceptable. There should be no roll-back on any previous commitments tackling climate change and investing in clean energy. Instead, there should be prioritisation and scaling up of investment in off-grid renewable energy access. Now is the time for public money to be used in a proactive and ambitious way for tackling the climate crisis as part of a just recovery to COVID-19 and to create resilience for vulnerable people across the globe.



[i] It currently notes, ‘climate-informed DPFs will support sustainable and resilient recovery through climate actions, for example, shifting to cleaner transport and low-carbon energy’

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