The race for Most Hypocritical Actor at the climate talks in Poznan, Poland is a crowded one, to be sure, but the World Bank, in one swift move, has taken a commanding lead.

Late last week, as World Bankers in Poland were lobbying delegates over pierogies and pate, word leaked out of South Africa that the Bank’s International Finance Corporation has agreed “in principle” to provide up to $5 billion of our tax dollars to support as many as six additional coal plants.

If approved, this would be both the largest World Bank Group loan on record and the single most carbon intensive project ever undertaken. The loan to Eskom appears, at this stage, to be a blank check to support the expansion of electrical generating capacity in South Africa, reportedly primarily for the mining industry.

Eskom’s published plans (analysis [PDF]) for expansion include more than 12,000 MW of coal capacity, which means bringing three coal plants out of mothballs and building three new ones.

The World Bank is talking a good game on climate in Poland, continuing to position themselves [PDF] to control the potentially huge sums of money necessary to help developing countries adapt to climate change and transition to a low-carbon economy.

But the reality, and the audacity, of World Bank energy lending continues to amaze and undercut any stated concern for the climate. Last year Bank financing for fossil fuels increased 94 percent overall — an amazing 256 percent for coal alone. Fossil-fuel lending continues to dwarf Bank funding for renewables and demand-side efficiency.

When it comes to hypocrisy, the World Bank never fails to disappoint. Campaigners in Poznan and beyond are supporting the G77 developing countries and China in demanding that funds provided under the Climate Convention are not channeled through the World Bank, as the Bush administration wants. You can support that effort by signing onto this statement.