Sun setting on World Bank support for fossil fuels

Headline-grabbing announcement of the day is definitely that “The World Bank Group will no longer finance upstream oil and gas, after 2019”.

While many will see the 2 year delay as a disappointment, the fact that the organisation is putting its weight firmly behind a move away from fossil fuels is a welcome one.

The huge amount of support that the industry relies on, not least from national governments, is only part of the story though. Luckily, there is plenty more to the World Bank’s One Planet announcement. You can see the full text here.

As well as moving away from oil & gas the Bank is taking positive action to support climate action, and says it is on track to shift 28% of its lending in that direction by 2020. It is also looking at its own activities and will start to monitor and report on greenhouse gas emissions from the investment projects it finances in key emissions-producing sectors, such as energy.

We can’t get too excited. Earlier in the year the World Bank worked with the United Nations, and oil and gas industry representatives on environmental and social issues, to produce a report on ‘Oil and Gas Industry Efforts on achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals’. It’s an interesting guide to how the industry might reform its activities and behaviours. As a necessary evil in the short term, it’s an industry that is in huge need of reform.

While some might promote the report as a sign of how they are mending their ways, we only have to look at the lobbying of Trump in the US to see how the fossil fuel dollar is used by the industry to avoid regulation and reform.

We need to maintain pressure to ensure that the fossil fuel lobby’s arguments on the economic benefits of oil & gas don’t provide a smokescreen to cover up the damage they are doing and the huge threat that they pose to us all.

The World Bank announcement is a welcome one, another sign that the tide is turning in favour of a cleaner future, but the fight is not over.