Civil society groups to EBRD in Belgrade: Coal Kills!
As the EBRD holds a consultation meeting in Belgrade today on its new energy strategy, civil society groups have warned the bank that it must stop financing coal, which has recently been shown to cause 23 000 deaths annually throughout Europe , as well as being an important contributor to dangerous climate change. In spite of this, the EBRD between 2006 and 2011 loaned more than EUR 675 million for coal projects across its region of operations.
The World Bank and the European Investment Bank (EIB) have recently taken steps to cut out coal from their energy lending policies, however the EBRD’s new draft policy suggests that the bank is planning to continue financing coal and other fossil fuels.
“Now that the EIB has virtually cut out coal altogether, next in line is the EBRD, and the public consultations taking place in Belgrade on September 4 is a chance to revise its energy lending strategy in a direction that will recognize the needs of society and the environment”, commented Pippa Gallop, research co-ordinator at CEE Bankwatch Network.
Although Croatia entered the EU earlier this year, and other countries in the region aspire to do so, a joint civil society report Invest in Haste, Repent at Leisure  published in June finds that the Western Balkan countries are heading in the opposite direction of the EU’s goals on climate change for 2050, a situation which will be extremely costly to turn around once EU requirements become binding on these countries.
“When it comes to energy investments, the EBRD, which was the largest public lender in the Western Balkans energy sector between 2006 and 2012, is becoming known as the ‘bad boy bank’, because almost a half of a total of EUR 1.09 billion went to fossil fuels. Furthermore, EBRD is currently considering support for at least two new coal thermal power plants in the region, including Kolubara B in Serbia”, explained Garret Tankosić-Kelly, principal of regional NGO SEE Change Net. A look at the EBRD’s Western Balkan energy investments does not show any consistent trend towards increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy over time.
In Serbia alone, the health and social costs of coal combustion are estimated at up to EUR 4.99 billion annually, according to HEAL (Health and Environment Alliance), leading European not-for-profit organization addressing how the environment affects health in the European Union. According to the same report, up to 2100 coal-related deaths occur in Serbia annually. “Serbia received EUR 80 million from the EBRD for its lignite sector between 2006 and 2012, but only EUR 4.9 million for nonhydropower renewable energy. In spite of lignite’s health impacts, Serbia’s need to align itself with EU climate and decarbonisation policies and the country’s massive demand-side energy efficiency potential, the EBRD looks set to finance the Kolubara B lignite power plant as well”, says Zvezdan Kalmar, from Serbian NGO CEKOR.
Civil society groups have delivered today a petition initiated by 350.org to the representatives of the EBRD. The petition Divest EBRD From Fossil Fuels has been signed by 16 725 people across the world, telling the EBRD to end its support to dirty fossil fuels which are fueling dangerous climate change. As the 2012 Carbon Tracker report shows, if we are to keep climate change below 2°, we must keep 80% of fossil fuel reserves under ground. 
“In the past year we have seen the financial sector begin to wake up to the reality that investments in fossil fuel companies represent a bad bet and with the effects of climate change being felt by communities across the world, action can’t come fast enough. A bet on fossil fuels is a bet against a liveable future,” reiterates Tim Ratcliffe, European campaigner of 350.org.
The EBRD must improve its current draft Energy Strategy in order to improve people’s quality of life and help stop the terrible consequences of coal and climate change in this region. We expect the EBRD to show genuine commitment to the prevention of coal related deaths and to a cleaner and healthier future.
Full press release available for download below.