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EIB restricts – but does not eliminate – coal and other fossil fuel lending

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Brussels — The European Investment Bank (EIB) announced today an energy policy that while introducing stringent criteria for financing coal power plants does not eliminate the possibility of support for coal or other fossil fuel energy sources.

The bank’s new energy policy will introduce Emission Performance Standards for all fossil fuel generation projects to screen out investments whose carbon emissions exceed a certain threshold. While not specified today by the EIB, the EPS level included in a 25 June draft of the policy was set at 550 gCO2/kWh (see below a table explaining what types of fossil fuel projects are excluded by various EPS levels).

“The EPS level proposed by the EIB in June (550) does not guarantee the elimination of all high carbon lending. We need at least a 350 EPS level in order to say that the policy document is serious about addressing climate change,” said Bankwatch EIB coordinator Anna Roggenbuck. “We therefore expect that the EIB review its proposed EPS soon after the discussion on 2030 climate targets is completed within EU.”

One of the most concerning aspects of the EIB draft was the “EPS exception” set out in the document for cases in which “a plant contributes to the security of supply” within the EU or when “it contributes to poverty alleviation and economic development” outside of the EU

According to the EIB announcement today, the Board of Directors approving the policy has asked for additional clarifications on proposed exemptions to the Emissions Performance Standard.

“It is important to have clarification on these exemptions, because these can open the gates for any dirty coal project to receive financing as long as its proponents are able to convince that the loan is essential for energy security,” says Bankwatch energy campaigner Kuba Gogolewski. “How this issue will be clarified over the next period will say a lot about whether the EIB and EU Member States are indeed committed to the transition to low-carbon economies. While we see promising signs in today’s policy, much more is needed.”

Counter Balance coordinator Berber Verpoest says, “Despite the introduction of stronger emissions standards, the EIB keeps the door open to all fossil fuels including the possible financing of shale gas and also makes it easier to lend to large dams with negative social and environmental effects. More can and should be expected from a self-declared climate champion.

Yesterday’s vote by the EIB – together with the World Bank guidelines for energy lending approved last week – is an important signal for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to modify its own energy policy in order to end its support for coal mining and coal installations.

On Thursday 25 July, the EBRD will present a draft of its future energy policy. Bankwatch and Counter Balance say that the draft document (already published) does too little to reduce climate-damaging financing and needs to be significantly improved by introducing emission reduction targets for the banks’ energy lending and setting concrete timelines and objectives for the bank’s renewables and energy efficiency support.

 

For more information, contact:

Anna Roggenbuck, Bankwatch EIB coordinator
annar@bankwatch.org 0048 509970424

Kuba Gogolewski, Bankwatch energy campaigner
kuba.gogolewski@bankwatch.org 0048721440119

Berber Verpoest, Counter Balance coordinator
press@counterbalance-eib.org 0032484508416
Read the Bankwatch position on the EBRD draft energy policy: http://bankwatch.org/sites/default/files/briefing-EBRD-energypolicydraft-23Jul2013.pdf

Read Bankwatch comments to the EIB energy policy draft: http://bankwatch.org/publications/bankwatch-comments-eib-draft-energy-policy
Deciphering EPS standards:

EPS level (g CO2/kWh) Impact on fossil fuel technology deployment

150 Screens out all gas and coal unless deployed with CCS

350 Screens out coal and lignite-fired plant and older inefficient gas-fired plant*

450 Screens out coal and lignite-fired plant and older inefficient gas-fired plant*

500 Screens out coal and lignite-fired plant and older inefficient gas-fired plant*

550 Screens out coal and lignite-fired plant*

*Coal, lignite and inefficient gas can still be deployed but will require increasing proportions of biomass cofiring and/or CCS as the EPS is tightened. Biomass co-firing ranges from ~25% at 550 gCO2/kWh to >50% at 350 gCO2/kWh

Source: http://www.ecofys.com/files/files/ecofys_2009_scenarios_on_eps_eu_power_sector.pdf

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Tracking the records of development banks in the Middle East and North Africa: towards a new development paradigm for the region?

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Launch debate and presentation of the report “The Great Middle East Beanfeast – How ‘Development’ Banks are Using Public-Private Partnerships to Carve Up the Arab Spring Countries”

Remember the Arab spring, the wave of popular revolts that hit several Arab countries in 2011. They initially resulted in the ousting of cruel dictators and brought about impressive political changes. Following these events, the European Union decided to change its approach to the region and to channel in more resources from international financial institutions (IFIs) such as the EIB, EBRD and the IMF.

The IFIs had longstanding relationships with the Arab countries. When a new wind started blowing they were willing to change their narrative but not necessarily their methods. The positive aura of change might have left most of the Arab countries but the IFIs have not. We think that the Arab spring is worth an evaluation of the EU’s engagement in the region, and tracking the records of development banks in the Middle East should be a key priority.

The IFIs’ role

Our latest report “the great Middle East beanfeast” is a first attempt in that regard. Anders Lustgarten, the author of the report, investigates the role of the development banks or IFIs (WB, EIB, EBRD, IMF) in Egypt and how they responded to the Arab Spring. The report reads as a fierce critique to the policies of liberalisation and privatisation promoted by those institutions in Egyptand in the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa). It also targets the use of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) and what we call the “financialisation of development finance”.

These development banks betray the spirit of the Arab spring by the financial mechanisms they use, Lustgarten argues. While the slogan of the Arab spring was ‘bread, freedom and social justice’, the policies and financial mechanisms used by the development banks mainly bring about the opposite.

PPPs, one of the priorities of the European Investment Bank when it is active in the region for example, are a tool to shift public assets into private hands. The list of privatisations under the Mubarak regime is impressive. It has been much contested and successfully challenged in court. Extensive recourse to private equity and the use of financial intermediaries typically benefit a small elite and subject the economy increasingly to the whims of the financial market. The increasing role of the private sector decreases the ownership of civil society and undermines the ability of the state to redistribute wealth. In brief, these were not exactly the aspirations of the Tahrir demonstrators.

A different approach?

Moreover, the author shows how the EIB and the World Bank were deeply entangled with the pre-Arab spring dictatorships. The EIB has a significant track record of supporting the Mubarak regime for instance, lending nearly €4 billion to Egypt in the decade preceding the Arab Spring. In the whole MENA region, the EIB invested €15.5 billion in the same decade, twice as much as in any other region outside Europe.

So when those institutions now refer to “democratic development of the region”, it must be remembered that they loaned more under the old dictators’ regimes than to any other regime, and they used the same justifications to do so than as they use now. For instance, a 2004 joint financial package for the MENA region between the EIB, World Bank and EU Commission claimed that it “will be used to lend support to institutional and economic reform, human rights and democracy projects, the fight against poverty and education and training”.

Debate

On Monday we launched the report with a public debate (participants were Anders lustgarten (author), Abdesssalam Kleiche (researcher ATTAC France) Koen Bogaert (Ghent University, MENARG) and Raffaella Iodice (European Commission)) and it did exactly what it was intended to do: to spark discussion on the role of IFIs in the MENA region.

Quite provocatively Lustgarten uses the term ‘development mafia’ to describe the institutions involved in financing development in the region. “The term refers to the way they are organised: a small group seals the deals according to their interests and ideology. Democracy and public support are nowhere to be found. They are not acting as criminals as such although in some cases their way of operating may facilitate corruption”.

Koen Bogaert questioned the relevance of the “mafia” term, as he would rather speak of unintentional “class politics” based on a neo-liberal and unconscious dogma. He favours looking at the longer term historical perspective. The Arab spring is the current summit of a succession of popular uprisings since the 1980’s. Following the liberal reforms which started out in the 1970’s imposed by the IMF and other development banks, redistribution of wealth has decreased consequently. Popular uprisings can be considered as a reaction against this trend. In that sense the Arab spring can be seen among other things as a popular outcry against the failing policies imposed by international financial institutions (link to video).

Abdessalam Kleiche (ATTAC France) agrees with that analysis and sees Egypt as a testing ground for neo-liberal policies promoted by the IFIs since the 1970′s. The current model is one where the state should disengage from health and education sector, leaving in addition entire economic spheres to free markets with local populations as the major victims. In this regard, he sees the current EIB and EBRD role in the region as the mere continuation of previous unsuccessful policies.

We do more than implementing neo-liberal reforms, counters Raffealla Iodice, head of unit on the MENA region in DG DEVCO (European Commission). Good governance and the fight against corruption are priorities for the European Commission. Moreover, if the IMF proposes to reform expensive fuel subsidies, it are the rich who get about 75% of the subsidy who are targeted, she argues.

Iodice recognised some of the concerns raised including the debt issue which is critical in many countries. A lot of it was accumulated under the previous regimes and could be regarded as illegitimate or ‘odious’. Nevertheless loans remain …

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Revision of the European Investment Bank’s anti-fraud policy happens outside of political reality

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BRUSSELS – On the 23rd of April the EIB will approve its revised anti-fraud policy. What should have been an open process taking into account current political commitments against tax evasion and money laundering and recent investigations by the European anti-fraud office OLAF into projects financed by the EIB, will turn out to be a rushed revision ignoring concerns raised by civil society stakeholders.

Several policy processes are currently taking place including the ongoing review of the anti-money laundering directive initiated by the European Commission and commitments by EU member states – the bank’s shareholders – to take measures against tax evasion both at European level and under the framework of the G8 and G20.

“As an EU body governed by the member states, we regret the EIB is revising its policy outside of this political reality. With the issue of tax evasion high on the political agenda and with new regulation on the way, EIB’s new policy risks to be outdated before it is approved”, according to Xavier Sol, Counter Balance director.

Additionally a major investigation on allegedly failed due diligence by the Bank on corruption and money laundering is currently conducted by OLAF on EIB investments into the private equity fund ECP operating inNigeria.

“OLAF’s findings and eventual policy recommendations are expected this summer and we believe it is of importance for the Bank to draw adequate lessons on the case and reflect these in its policy once the outcome of OLAF investigation will be available”, says Antonio Tricarico of Re:common.

But contrary to the revision of its anti-fraud policy in 2008, the EIB has not engaged in a genuine consultation process with civil society this time. At the end of March the EIB presented its revised policy to stakeholders inBrusselsbut due to its fast-tracked adoption procedure it is very likely that the Bank will not take into account the concerns raised during the meeting.

Sol: “Several loopholes remain unsolved: the EIB has still not formally committed that it will stop disbursing loans when investigations are taking place into the projects it finances. Neither has the bank addressed the problematic issue of lending through financial intermediaries such as private equity funds or commercial banks, even while this type of lending has proved to be especially vulnerable to corruption due to its opaque structure.”

“By rushing the revision of its anti-fraud policy, the European Investment Bank (EIB) is putting the credibility of its commitments against corruption and money laundering at stake”, concludes Tricarico.

 

Note to the editors:

# Will the new EIB anti-fraud policy finally live up to its name? – Counter Balance blog on EIB’s presentation of the anti fraud policy:
# Letter to the EIB and the European Commission requesting to delay board approval of EIB revised anti-corruption and money laundering policy (pdf)

 

For more information please contact:

# Antonio Tricarico
atricarico@recommon.org

# Xavier Sol // +32 473 223 893
Xavier.sol@bankwatch.org

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Will the new EIB anti-fraud policy finally live up to its name?

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How far is the EIB willing to go to avoid more corruption linked to its activities? After OLAF investigations in the Ibori and the Sostanj cases especially, this is the key question that will determine the success of EIB’s new anti fraud policy.

By Xavier Sol, Counter Balance director

Counter Balance, together with The Corner House, has been over the years accumulating evidence about misused EIB loans, such as in the Ibori case. EIB operations in Africa especially have been on our radar, as illustrated in a previous report and during an event held in the European Parliament. Accordingly, it is crucial that the bank reinforces its weak policy and strongly affirms its willingness to avoid dodgy investments – like through financial intermediaries – by adopting a risk-based approach.

The current EIB anti-fraud policy dates back to 2008, and since a lot of developments occurred in the past 5 years, the bank decided to review this key policy to be adopted by the EIB Board of Directors in April/May 2013. This is a move that we welcome in principle but of course to the condition that the loopholes that occurred are tackled adequately.

On Wednesday 20th March, the EIB held a workshop in Brussels on its revised Anti-fraud policy. This was for us and other CSOs the occasion to raise several major concerns in this regard. First, the EIB needs to stop loan disbursements to projects under ongoing national or European corruption investigations, such as in the case of Sostanj where the EIB disbursed the final tranche of its loan despite an ongoing OLAF investigation (Office Europeen de Lutte Anti-Fraude) taking place. On this question, the EIB answer remained vague, and it is still unclear how EIB administrative investigations are not hampering criminal investigations led by national or EU authorities.

Then, financial intermediaries (such as private equity funds and commercial banks) are not explicitly mentioned in the draft revised policy: this is worrying because EIB intermediated loans through those financial actors have a disastrous track record including a lack of accountability and clear pro-development approach, weak due diligence and a habit of tax avoidance. What is clearly missing in the bank’s approach is a strong position in the contracts it signs with this kind of intermediaries and commercial banks: the clauses negotiated there by the EIB are not stringent enough to make sure the contract will be suspended in case of fraud suspicion.

However, few improvements appear in the draft, including better protection of whistleblowers and informants, and the inclusion of an exclusion procedure based on the European Commission database of convicted companies. This would concretely enlarge the scope of companies or financial actors convicted of corruption being excluded from EIB loans’ beneficiaries.

It is also announced that the Bank, following the example of other International Financial Institutions, will also introduce an additional so-called “proactive integrity review” in addition to its traditional project screening. This seems to be an ambitious idea in order to regularly review some ongoing cases, but we wonder why such thorough review could not apply to all operations by default. This would be for the Bank a strong signal that it is engaging in the right direction. According to an EIB official, the review should apply to “risky and vulnerable projects” and cover “sensitive sectors, countries and Politically Exposed Persons”. This is clearly admitting that some EIB loans are risky and particularly jeopardized by corruptive practices. Why would then the Bank engage in those operations in the first place?

Overall, those recent developments show that pressure from civil society and OLAF in recent cases had some effects on the EIB positioning. Nevertheless, it is too early to judge the level of seriousness of the bank on those issues. Counter Balance will closely follow this review process and keep you informed about this policy. All potential attempts to prevent EU public investments to end up in corruption scandals should be made, and as such we expect from the European Investment Bank a clear and ambitious commitment to tackle such crucial issues.

Further readings:

  • On EIB’s anti-fraud policy EIB anti fraud policy (2008)
  • On the Ibori case
    • Background
    • “Was EU aid money used to finance Nigerian money laundering funds?”

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Dreams of European Investment Bank Quitting Coal Go Up in Smoke – For Now

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Brussels — The European Investment Bank (EIB) president Werner Hoyer was forced to say this morning, during the EIB’s annual press conference, that an announcement that the bank would give up lending to coal was “pure nonsense”. And this, despite the fact that Hoyer repeatedly referred to the EIB as a frontrunner in the fight against climate change.

The contradictory statements from the EIB came as a result of a sophisticated activist campaign that culminated in a curious confrontation inside the European Council building this morning. [1]

The ruse began yesterday afternoon, when a fake press release announced that the EIB was divesting from coal. Several news outlets picked it up as real, including Bloomberg, who quickly discovered their error, pulled the report, and posted a retraction.

The EIB posted a denial on their website and threatened legal action, but that did not stop the activists, who continued to hound them at their exclusive annual press conference this morning.

After Hoyer presented the activities of the EIB during 2012, including the bank’s efforts on climate change, he was approached by a self-identified “citizen of Europe”, who offered him an elegant flower vase shaped like a smokestack.

“I am very pleased to present this award to the European Investment Bank,” said the citizen, “to honor your commitment to divest from Coal,

and finally commit to real action on climate change.”

Despite hesitating for a second whether to get the “European citizen” kicked out, the EIB decided he posed no real threat and allowed him to continue staying in the room, while keeping the award on the stage for some time.

world coal down award

Upon receiving the award, a confounded Hoyer said that “we have always been grateful for the ingenuity of our journalist partners” and quickly moved on to the next issue on the press conference agenda.

Yet the climate issue and energy lending by the EIB stayed on the media’s mind and numerous questions addressed in the Q&A section of the press conference pressed the EIB to explain more about the bank’s efforts against climate change. Representatives of the bank mostly pointed to the upcoming review of the bank’s energy policy (due in June); the EIB made it clear it was not ready to announce dropping coal from the bank’s lending at the moment and made it clear that gas will continue to be a central segment of EIB lending in the future.

The “citizen of Europe” was really a representative of Counter Balance, a coalition of NGOs across Europe that monitor the EIB. The hoax was developed with the help of the Yes Lab.

“We wanted to show to the bank how European citizens expect the EIB to behave,” said Berber Verpoest of Counter Balance.

The EIB is the house bank of the EU, mandated to further EU objectives including Europe’s 2050 Energy Roadmap which calls for an 80-95 percent emissions reduction over the next four decades in Europe. The EIB’s website claims the bank is “among the largest providers of finance for climate action in pursuit of the EU’s goal of low-carbon and climate resilient growth.” What is not mentioned, however, are the massive loans to coal-fired power plants and other dirty energy initiatives that the EIB has provided also over the last years.

“The presentation of this award and the hoax press release from yesterday were meant to emphasise the deep contradiction at the heart of the EIB,” explains Berber Verpoest from Counter Balance. “On the one hand, this is the bank of the EU with the goal to fight climate change; on the other hand, the EIB has been lending billions to coal, gas and other fossil fuels and until last year its dirty energy loans were equal to its support for clean energy. [2] So with the hoax we wanted to make clear what we expect the future energy policy to look like.”

The European Investment Bank is this year reviewing its energy lending policy, a revision which only happens once every 5-6 years. Considering that climate science makes it clear we cannot invest any more in fossil fuel infrastructure after 2017 if we want to contain global warming within 2 degrees Celsius, the current policy revision is the only chance this bank has to set its lending in line with the climate imperative.

“The EIB has been working hard over the past years to clean up its lending,” says Xavier Sol from Counter Balance. “We commend them for those efforts and we hope that they take this hoax for what it really is: not so much an attempt to make fun, but an alarm bell that time is running out and subsidies for fossil fuels must be ended today if we want to avoid catastrophe.”

Key figures:

EIB loans to coal 2007-2011: 2 billion euros
EIB loans to fossil fuels 2007-2011: 19 billion euros (a third of overall energy lending)
EIB total energy loans: 62 billion euros
Coal plants financed by the EIB since 2007:

Du-Walsum Coal Power Plant in Germany, 2007
PPC Environment in Greece, 2007
Enel Energia Rinnovabile & Ambiente in Italy, 2007
TES – THERMAL Power Plant Sostanj in Slovenia, 2007 and 2010
Power Plant Karlsruhe in Germany, 2008
NordikFlex (Flex Leasing) in Denmark, 2015
Fortum CHP And E-Metering in Poland, 2009
SE Power Plant And Forest Industry R&D in Poland, 2010
South Poland CHP in Poland, 2011
Paroseni Power Plant in Romania, 2011

Search details about them at: http://www.eib.org/projects/pipeline/index.htm

Notes for the editors:

1. See how the story unfolded on Spotify:
http://storify.com/ceebankwatch/eib-divests-from-coal

2. Read a Bankwatch analysis of the EIB’s energy lending for the period 2007-2011:
http://bankwatch.org/sites/default/files/briefing-EIB-energy-14Jan2013.pdf

Find more data and comments on the Bankwatch website:
http://bankwatch.org/campaign/energy-lending

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