Civil society groups warn World Bank vs relying too much on firms to fight climate change

Warren de Guzman, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 07 2022 11:39 PM

The World Bank headquarters in the Philippines. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/file
The World Bank headquarters in the Philippines. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/file

MANILA—Representatives from civil society groups worldwide on Thursday called on the World Bank to consider carefully the apparent shift toward involving large corporations in the fight against climate change.

During a webinar by World Bank with advocates across the globe, some of the panelists said there is a long history of public-private partnerships doing more harm than good in battling global warming.

Laura Motano of Ambiente Y Sociedad from Colombia said "projects must be participatory and must be inclusive in order to be sustainable."

"We must stop being fearful of opening up projects for communities to participate, and opening up to non-technical parties to participate. There are valuable stages in the project which can be thought about well if it is opened up to communities. These projects will be done in their territories, these people know their areas, their local needs," she said.

According to Jiten Yumnam of the Center for Research and Advocacy-Manipur, the World Bank's Green Resilient and Inclusive Development (GRID) should be based on "people’s needs, and serve the needs of the people, and not the private parties and corporations."

"We should also seek alternatives and have accountable processes to make sure we adhere to human rights and other standards. It is good to reflect on World Bank participation in projects all around. It is important to consider all implications, law, social, so many things to consider," Yumnam said.

Both advocates referred to personal experiences in their respective areas of study where they saw large corporations take on massive projects done in the name of fighting climate change, only to have unforeseen side effects negatively affect livelihoods, social norms, and even the environment the same projects were supposed to protect.

Vivien Foster, chief economist for the infrastructure vice-presidency of the World Bank Group, meanwhile said the fight against climate change cannot be won without the participation of the private sector. 

However, she said she hears the views of the advocates loud and clear. 

“Sustainability has to be socially sustainable, and there must be critical importance on a people-centric approach, particularly megaprojects."

Foster agreed that there is much work to be done to ensure all stakeholders share the same goal when it comes to participating in sustainable infrastructure and the GRID approach and are not only motivated by profit. 

“These very high environmental and social standards that are needed for projects to be done responsibly are till not widely adopted. There is still a long way to go to get the private sector and governments to adopt these standards," she said.

She also admitted that even profitability may not be enough to bring more private sector capital into the fight against climate change, especially how volatile the global economy is right now. 

“The more volatile financial markets make it harder to harness private capital."

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