U.S. abstains on vote to proliferate coal in South Africa

Today the United States abstained on a World Bank vote to approve a $3.75 billion loan for South African utility Eskom to build a 4800 megawatt coal plant. Ultimately, the loan was approved. But the U.S. vote sends a clear signal that the U.S. government is not willing to accept business as usual — continuing a trajectory of unabated carbon pollution — without due consideration of the environmental consequences. CAP’s Kari Manlove has the story.

It is further encouraging that the U.S. vote is consistent with the Treasury Department’s recently released guidelines for multilateral development banks’ financial support of coal-fired power plants, as the Center for American Progress discusses in their report Development Funding Done Right.

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Last month the World Bank announced a $400 million loan to Indonesia to develop its geothermal resources, and South Africa has acquired a similar loan to co-finance grid-connected solar thermal, utility-scale wind, energy efficiency, and solar water heaters. Both of these loans are through the bank’s Clean Technology Fund, which recently announced its intention to mobilize $40 billion toward low-carbon growth in developing countries. Investments such as these build on the spirit of cooperation that emerged last December in Copenhagen between developed and developing countries to jointly move toward a global clean energy economy.

The World Bank has a responsibility to show leadership in fostering large-scale investment in sustainable economic growth. It should be using its resources to help developing countries choose low-carbon development pathways. Despite the outcome, it is worth noting that the U.S. vote encourages more aggressive moves in this direction.