World Bank to Back African Dams in New Energy Strategy

Takeze Dam in Ethiopia
Takeze Dam in Ethiopia The World Bank's new draft Energy Strategy makes some positive advancements in creating our energy future.  For example, the Bank has tentatively made a commitment to cut lending for coal projects in all countries that do not receive funding from the International Development Agency (IDA).  Yet what the Bank promises as a trade-off for coal spells trouble for the future of rivers in Africa.

 I've just come back from a meeting with Bank officials to address some of the problem language around dams in the draft strategy.  As the meeting came to a close,

Climate Funds to Underwrite the World Bank’s Love Affair with Big Dams?

Dead trees in Balbina Reservoir
Dead trees in Balbina Reservoir Pedro Ivo Simoes Climate funds such as the Prototype Carbon Fund and the European carbon market prioritize support for renewable energy technologies, and exclude large hydropower from this definition. There are good reasons for this: Big dams irreversibly damage freshwater ecosystems, which are already reeling under the impacts of climate change. Slow, lumpy investments in large dams are not well suited for the uncertainties of climate change, which call for nimble, decentralized and flexible energy strategies. Finally, the purpose of carbon credits is to fac

Comments on the Role of Hydropower in the World Bank's Energy Strategy

Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Dams and Climate ChangeThe World Bank Energy Strategy incorrectly argues that hydropower is an appropriate response to climate change.  The report argues that hydropower with storage can help cope with climate variability and change through flood and drought management (paragraph 113).  However, as noted in paragraph 117, hydrological flow is itself affected by climate change-induced variability.  Reduced hydrological flow will render big-dam storage a less reliable source of water and energy, and could perversely reduce the ability of river-based communities to adapt to climate change. 

World Bank Energy Strategy Promotes Large Dams

Protest against the World Bank's Sardar Sarovar Dam in India
Protest against the World Bank's Sardar Sarovar Dam in India Large hydropower projects have sold poor people and the environment down the river. They are usually built to provide benefits to urban middle classes and industrial centers rather than the poor, have serious environmental impacts, and are not resilient to climate change. In spite of their bad track record, the World Bank wants to increase lending for large dams in its new Energy Strategy. The new Energy Strategy will be discussed by the Bank’s Board members in April 2011. It will guide the future lending priorities of the most
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