What would you say if someone drove a truck into your house, then jumped out and offered you a loan to help rebuild?
After you stopped screaming at them, which might take a while, you’d demand that they pay for damages that they caused, of course. Over time though, if no one forced the truck driver to pay for the damages, you might be tempted to take the loan. Sure, its a rip-off, but at least you get the money you need to rebuild.
This is exactly what’s happening today with much needed funding for adaptation to climate change impacts in the developing world. The World Bank, backed by Northern taxpayers, is "offering" to loan the developing world the money needed to adapt to climate change impacts.
Ethically, this is abhorrent.
Historically, the U.S. alone is responsible for roughly 30 percent of global warming emissions (with only 5 percent of global population). The richest countries account for 64 percent.
"Adaptation funding is compensation for damages done and, as such, must be given in the form of grants," argues Ilana Solomon of ActionAid USA. "In many cases, a country will have no other option than to take on loans just to access desperately needed funding."
"Instead of having the ‘polluter pay’, with the new World Bank climate resilience fund, the polluter gets paid," said Neil Watkins of Jubilee USA Network.
Noteworthy factoid: The World Bank for many years has been the largest international source of public funding for the fossil fuel industry.
The decision taken by the Bank last Friday, Jan. 30, adds insult to the injury of the Bank’s approval of the use of funds earmarked to help poor countries curb emissions to fund new coal plants (on the theory that they’re slightly cleaner because of this funding).
It also comes amid ongoing controversy about the Bank’s radically increased funding of coal projects.
The question is — will the Obama Administration — which has the loudest voice on the World Bank board — make a difference on these issues? Stay tuned …