G20 Pushes Controversial Dams in "Green Growth" Strategy

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Group of 20 major economies (G20) holds its 2012 annual summit in Los Cabos, Mexico on June 18-19. The summit will discuss responses to the challenges of the global economic downturn, including the European sovereign debt crisis and the future of Greece's inclusion in the Eurozone.

It will also discuss strategies to kick-start global economic growth through large-scale infrastructure. In November of 2011, the G20's finance ministers issued a High-Level Report on Infrastructure that recommended 11 global infrastructure investments under the guise of "green growth," a concept being espoused at the Rio+20 negotiations. However, large, centralized, controversial hydropower projects play a starring role. The report recommends building the Grand Inga Complex, what would be the largest, most controversial, and most costly dam complex in the history of humankind, as well as massive grid expansion projects in West Africa and between Ethiopia and Kenya, among others.

These controversial hydropower projects may do more to increase economic growth for a few than they do to eliminate poverty and protect the environment. In May of this year, International Rivers published a report called Infrastructure for Whom?, which finds that the benefits of large, centralized projects – such as large-storage hydropower dams – have gone to energy-intensive industries rather than poor people who seek increased access to electricity, water and sanitation. Our report finds that decentralized projects that address the needs of poor people directly are more effective at promoting broad-based economic growth and reducing poverty.

Follow us June 18-19 as we report from the Mexico G20 Summit on the status of the G20's controversial infrastructure recommendations.

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