Coal’s last bastion starts to crack with new ADB policy

Statement of CEED on the release of the Draft Energy Policy of the Asian Development Bank

Today, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) unveiled the long-awaited draft of its updated Energy Policy, which, once approved by its Board of Directors by October 2021, would repeal the 2009 energy policy which saw the bank abet the growth of coal and other fossil fuels in developing countries in Asia. For the past few years, we from civil society have engaged ADB to turn it away from the destructive impact of its carbon-intensive investments, in view of the rapidly shifting global energy landscape and imperatives posed by the climate emergency.

    We are happy that ADB finally decided to abandon coal once and for all in this draft policy. By seeking to ‘support the phase-out of coal fired power plants in the region’, ADB finally recognizes the need to rectify its mistake of causing the suffering of many communities in the Philippines and across Asia through the coal-fired power plants it helped build. However, in all its interventions, the Bank must have the immediate and complete phase-out of coal in mind. Retrofitting and any allowances for emissions in current projects would defeat the stated objective of the draft policy.

    We hope other financial institutions would see this announcement from ADB as a sign to follow suit, paving the way for SEA to join the global exodus from coal.

    Nevertheless, we are concerned that the ADB shall continue funding the expansion of fossil gas in the region in their draft energy policy. Asian communities, which are some of the most climate vulnerable and paying some of the highest electricity rates in the world, need access to clean and affordable renewable energy. Fossil gas will just delay the necessary transition, at great cost to these communities.

    We are also concerned that ADB still intends to support destructive renewable energy systems like large hydropower plants, which are not ecologically just. The ADB must remove these from its definition of ‘clean energy.’ In lieu of these and instead of promoting privatized systems, ADB would do well to support community-based microgrids which would empower local communities and can fuel the sustainable development we need today. We also note that while the draft policy notes its aim of aligning to the Paris Agreement, it fails to mention the 1.5°C goal as its standard. The importance of the limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C cannot be undermined as it offers a higher chance of survival for more communities and life systems from more severe climate catastrophes.

    We from civil society together with communities from all over the region will continue to assess ADB’s energy directions and push for a Policy that fully aligns with the 1.5 degree C Paris Ambition and the respective climate mitigation and adaptation needs of our own nations.