CSOs to AIIB: Respect climate, adress energy poverty by investing on renewables

Civil society organizations from the Philippines called upon the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to respond to the urgent demands concerning the climate crisis, energy poverty, and the need for development in its Energy Strategy to be released this week, during the Annual Meeting of its Board of Governors to be held in Jeju, South Korea, on June 16 to 18.

In an open letter sent to Southeast Asian members of the AIIB’s Board of Governors, Philippine organizations urged the Bank to adhere to the following demands:

  1. Realize its commitment to be a lean, clean, green Bank, by refusing to fund dirty, deadly, and costly energy projects such as those reliant on fossil fuel and nuclear energy;
  2. Establish safeguards to ensure that mega-renewable energy projects do not endanger ecosystems, and consider their social and cultural impacts, especially to the impacted host communities; and
  3. Prioritize investment in small, decentralized projects rather than the big renewable energy projects.

Initiated by the Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED), the open letter was signed on by different national organizations, including Sanlakas, the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD), Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), The Climate Reality Project Philippines, Freedom from Debt Coalition, Save Sierra Madre Network, 350.org Pilipinas, and the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM).

“We hope that by this manifestation, the voices of the country’s most vulnerable sectors, especially 16 million energy poor Filipinos, will be reflected in this week’s meeting,” said CEED Convenor Gerry Arances. “The AIIB has an opportunity to set itself apart from other international finance institutions like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank in refusing to fund dirty energy projects like coal and nuclear energy both directly and indirectly.”

The letter discouraged investments on coal and so-called “clean” coal, due to the damge its poses to the environment, particularly water and air resources, as well as its greenhouse gas emissions, which are among the leading causes of man-made climate change. Nuclear energy, on the other hand, is also discouraged given the risks it poses to the environment given its radioactive waste and its vulnerability to disasters.

Arances also highlighted the risks and damages involved in funding large “mega-renewable” energy projects like large hydro-energy dams. “In our letter, we highlighted the experience of affected communities, particularly indigenous groups, in the construction of dams. These projects threaten to eradicate the cultural heritage of indigenous peoples and violate their ancestral domains, while solar farms and other large renewable energy projects compete with our need for food security and land reform.

Rather, the civil society organizations called on the AIIB to invest more on microrenewable energy projects which can be maintained and operated by communities. “This will help democratize the energy sector by decentralizing the generation and distribution of power, helping minimize the cost of electricity. Such projects are also effective in reaching areas which cannot be accessed by large grids, and reducing the power loss inherent in a heavily-centralized energy systems,” Arances said.