Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Glasgow Actions Team World Bank protest

Activists from Glasgow Actions Team and other groups gathered on October 6, 2022 in Washington, D.C. to protest the World Bank's nearly $15 billion in fossil fuel investments since the signing of the Paris agreement. (Photo: Eric Kayne/AP Images for Glasgow Actions Team)

After Dumping $15 Billion Into Fossil Fuels, World Bank Urged to Stop 'Investing in Climate Disaster'

"If the World Bank wants to be a part of the solution rather than the problem, it needs to stop funding fossil fuels and unlock billions in order to support the transition to renewable energy across the globe and end poverty and inequality," said one campaigner.

Brett Wilkins

A coalition of over 50 advocacy groups on Thursday published a report revealing that the World Bank has directly financed at least around $15 billion in fossil fuel development since the signing of the 2015 Paris climate agreement—despite the international financial institution's 2017 pledge to stop supporting oil and gas projects within two years.

"The Earth is on fire and the World Bank is one of the biggest arsonists in disguise."

Big Shift Global's report—entitled Investing in Climate Disaster: World Bank Finance for Fossil Fuels—"shows that even after the Paris agreement, climate science, and climate impacts should have been focusing minds" at the World Bank Group "on the need for a transition to clean renewable sources of energy." 

Instead, "the group remained in a fossil-funding paradigm, harmful to people, countries, and planet," spending at least $14.8 billion supporting fossil fuel projects and policies since the landmark climate accord was signed.

The report's release coincided with a demonstration by activists with Glasgow Actions Team, who unveiled a banner reading "World Bank = Climate Chaos" outside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., where the World Bank will hold its annual meetings next week.

The analysis was also published on the same day that U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen urged the World Bank to do more to combat the climate emergency.

"We agree with Secretary of Treasury Yellen that the development finance system needs to be fit for purpose in order to react to global challenges and crises, such as climate change," Glasgow Actions Team director Andrew Nazdin said in a statement.

"If the World Bank wants to be a part of the solution rather than the problem, it needs to stop funding fossil fuels and unlock billions in order to support the transition to renewable energy across the globe and end poverty and inequality," Nazdin added.

The report also comes amid calls by climate campaigners and U.S. Democratic lawmakers for the World Bank Group to fire its president, David Malpass—who was nominated by former U.S. President Donald Trump—after he refused to acknowledge that burning fossil fuels is heating the planet.

"World Bank President David Malpass recently refused to confirm that he accepts climate science," Big Shift Global said on its website. "While President Malpass has attempted to walk back his remarks, the bank's track record of a lack of climate action under his leadership speaks for itself."

Bronwen Tucker, public finance co-lead at Oil Change International—a member of Big Shift Global—said Thursday that "under Malpass, the World Bank Group is running backward on climate and just development."

"The World Bank Group still funds more fossil fuels" than any other multilateral development bank (MDB), "and they continue to lock Global South countries into expensive and volatile fossil fuel contracts through their heavy-handed policy lending programs," Tucker added. "They are blocking joint MDB Paris alignment efforts. Malpass must go."

The White House condemned Malpass' initial remarks, and according to reporting by Axios, the Biden administration is considering an attempt to remove the World Bank president and replace him, perhaps with former U.S. vice president and early climate champion Al Gore or current Biden climate envoy John Kerry.

Big Shift Global is "calling on all of the world's biggest public development banks to shift all their money out of dirty fossil fuels and into sustainable renewable energy to provide energy access for all."

The coalition added that multilateral development banks "such as the World Bank manage billions of dollars of public money," making them "key to financing the shift to a sustainable renewable global energy system."

Big Shift Global says these international financial institutions must:

  • End all direct and indirect finance to fossil fuels and promote a just transition;
  • Significantly scale up investment in sustainable renewable energy and ensure everyone has access to clean, safe energy;
  • Include strong environmental, social, and governance safeguards relating to fossil fuels and renewable energy; and
  • Be transparent and accountable about direct and indirect energy finance and in measuring emissions from the projects they fund.

According to the World Bank's own analysis, "Climate change may push over 130 million into poverty by 2030 and cause over 200 million people to migrate within their own countries by 2050."

The World Bank says it is "the biggest multilateral funder of climate investments in developing countries," and that it intends "to go further in helping countries reduce poverty and rise to the challenges of climate change."

The international financial institution cites the more than $109 billion it says it has invested in climate finance—including a record $21.6 billion for fiscal year 2021—over the past six years. 

However, the U.K.-based international charity Oxfam said this week that the World Banks' "reporting practices make it impossible to independently verify their climate finance claims."

"The Earth is on fire and the World Bank is one of the biggest arsonists in disguise," German Green politician Ute Koczy, an MDB expert at coalition member Urgewald, said in a statement Thursday.

"To date, this bank supports coal, oil, and gas," she added. "Greedy companies are lucky to have World Bank leaders in back. This has to stop. Exit fossil fuel finance now!"

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Solidarity Fund Up and Running for Designer Behind Iconic Bernie Sanders Posters

Tyler Evans "has dedicated his life to the progressive movement," says the GoFundMe created for the hospitalized designer. "Now it's our time to have Tyler's back when he and his family need it most."

Jessica Corbett ·

Journalism Defenders Push for Passage of 'Game-Changing' PRESS Act

"The PRESS Act is the most important free press legislation in modern times because it would finally stop the government from spying on journalists and threatening them with arrest for doing their jobs," explained one advocate.

Brett Wilkins ·

New York Times Union Workers Planning Dec. 8 Walkout, Rally Over Pay

"Our collective action is working: Management backed off its attempt to kill our pension and agreed to expand fertility benefits," the union said of ongoing talks. "But management still barely budged on some of our most important priorities."

Jessica Corbett ·

Dems Back Blue Dog Spanberger for Swing District Post Over Progressive Cartwright

The corporate Democrat's path to victory was "pretty simple," said one progressive. "Matt Cartwright supports Medicare for All and Spanberger is a former CIA agent who spends all her time punching left."

Julia Conley ·

100+ Groups Urge Congress to Back Sanders' Yemen War Powers Resolution

"After seven years of direct and indirect involvement in the Yemen war, the United States must cease supplying weapons, spare parts, maintenance services, and logistical support to Saudi Arabia."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo