Athena is the face of Greenpeace's climate and energy campaign in Asia. She has just returned from Kyoto, where she led a team pressuring the Asian Development Bank to put their money where their mouths are and invest in Clean Energy. Here's her round up.
2 weeks ago I welcomed myself back to the city of Kyoto with high expectations: for the Asian Development Bank to honour the spirit of one of the most important environmental agreements in history – the Kyoto Protocol.
I finally got to see Kyoto on the last day of my visit to this historic city. A visit to the Kiyomizu-dera Temple and a walk along Gion made me appreciate its beauty – something I missed10 years ago during my first visit. The people of Kyoto should be proud of their home. The ADB could have made them even prouder, but they were a few steps short…
Following a gruelling week of no sleep, limited food, stress and countless meetings and writing sessions – we surprised ourselves at the impact we had on this giant institution. A team of 18 people from 10 countries, Asian led I must add, managed to rock the institution and send nervous ripples running through it.
From the starting act of the love shirts, to the kimono girls to the sumo-wrestling match, to high-level debates on coal and clean energy, our team was formidable and relentless. We countered each ADB statement, welcomed their initiatives and called for more. More importantly, we blocked a major attempt at putting nuclear on the agenda; stopped ADB expanding the Mae Moh coal plant in Thailand and applied the pressure that resulted in the ADB announcing an impressive array of clean energy initiatives. However, the one thing that keeps cropping up is coal and we will continue to push the Bank hard to phase-out coal from its portfolio.
Yes, the Bank is moving and its response to mounting public pressure has been significant. But I can’t stop wondering whether these commitments are real or not. Half way through the ADB meeting, I finally escaped from the Conference Centre to join the Peoples Forum activities at Doshisha University. Once again I listened to Maliwan, the Mae Moh community representative and to the Cambodian woman whose community was destroyed by an ADB funded highway project. They carried direct testimonies from people whose lives had been devastated by large-scale ADB projects. I was thankful for this opportunity, I had to keep reminding myself that despite the Bank’s improved language on clean energy – this campaign has a long way to go…This bank is losing its grip...the private sector has taken over the energy and infrastructure field and it has nowhere else to go but to find its niche elsewhere. Our pressure can push the Bank to pioneer initiatives for the future - Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency. The ADB can and should make Clean Energy their business. If they get this right, they will show leadership, if not, they will slip into irrelevance and disappear and a golden opportunity to catalyse the energy revolution will disappear with them.
Up until now, we have always been told that money is the problem and this is why renewables are unable to compete. However, during the ADM meeting, Japan announced a US$100m clean energy facility, commitments to the Carbon fund reached US$80m and the clean energy financing partnership reached US$250m. The question is “If there had been no public pressure to re-channel these funds, where would’ve they gone otherwise?” This is the value of persistent global campaigning. It will be business as usual unless we agitate and mobilise, it will be coal and fossil fuels unless we increase the risks of investing in coal. Our campaign makes it difficult for coal proponents and banks to pursue coal - lets keep it this way.
This year is critical. All 3 IPCC reports are now out confirming the urgent need to address climate change. Now we head towards Bali in December for the next Kyoto Protocol meeting, a critical negotiating session for governments where big solutions are required to match the scale of the problem. The ADB could make a difference. We challenge the Bank to come up with actual good projects across the board that demonstrate its commitment to the many clean energy initiatives. We will continue to push, but not for further policy language, we want real action. We want wind farms, geothermal projects, Renewable Energy Bills, and RE based Development Plans by the Bank’s donor member countries. There’s still a long way to go but considering where we were on this campaign 2 years ago…not bad.
We thank you for the petitions and we thank our colleagues in Europe for exerting pressure on donor members. Let’s stay vigilant - one or two large-scale coal plants may still pop up in the ADB’s portfolio – we need to make sure the ADB doesn’t dip its hands into these projects.