The World Bank’s board has agreed a new strategy that will limit the financing of coal-fired power plants to “rare circumstances”.
The organisation says that it will only fund new coal power projects when they are “meeting basic energy needs in countries with no feasible alternatives.”
The proposal is part of the Washington-based lender’s strategy to address climate change, and has been put before its executive directors.
Since his appointment last year, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, the first scientist to head the institution, has been a vocal critic of the environmental effects of fossil fuel usage.
However, the bank also says that it will “scale up its work helping countries develop national and regional markets for natural gas, the fossil fuel with the lowest carbon intensity.”
The WWF has called for other international finance institutions to follow the World Bank’s example, but said that it hopes the organisation will go even further.
“Coal is the dirtiest of fossil fuel power sources – polluting local environments, and contributing heavily to global warming. The move by the World Bank to limit new coal financing is welcome, and this should immediately become the norm for all international finance institutions”, said Samantha Smith, leader of the WWF’s global climate and energy initiative.
“But to have a serious chance of tackling climate change, the world needs to move away from fossil fuels completely. While helping developing countries expand energy access and transition to low-carbon economic growth, the World Bank should phase out its support for all power supply based on fossil fuels.”
The World Bank’s strategy may be put to the test in 2014. It is currently considering financing a new power plant in Kosovo that would use lignite coal, the most polluting form of coal available. This is despite climate campaigners 350.org pointing to evidence that suggests Kosovo does not need a new coal plant.