World Bank boss urges coal for poor countries

Two months ago, Jim Yong Kim wanted to "shock" the world into action against man-made climate change. So some people might find what he said at Davos over the weekend to be rather shocking.
Written by Mark Halper, Contributor
"Tough negotiation." Jim Yong Kim wants to reduce world poverty while also tackling man-made climate change.

World Bank president Jim Yong Kim is a vocal advocate of fighting man- made climate change. Two months ago he said he wanted to "shock" the world into aggressive action to halt "devastating" human consequences of failing to curtail carbon energy sources.

So some people might have considered it a little shocking over the weekend when, at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, he promoted the use of coal as a cheap energy source in poor countries. The World Bank's mission is to reduce global poverty.

"We want to do everything we can to lower the use of coal," Kim said, as reported by the BBC. "But we can't turn our backs when poor countries need coal. My first priority is for countries to have the energy they need to lift their own people out of poverty. It's a tough negotiation."

That doesn't mean he's softening his views on climate change.

Two months ago, in the World Bank's Turn Down The Heat report, Kim warned that the planet's current trend of warming 4 degrees C by the end of the century would lead to "the inundation of coastal cities; increasing risks for food production potentially leading to higher malnutrition rates; many dry regions becoming dryer, wet regions wetter; unprecedented heat waves in many regions, espcially in the tropics; substantially exacerbated water scarity in many regions; increased frequency of high-intenstiy tropical cyclones; and irrversible loss of biodiveristy, including coral reef systems."

In releasing the report, he said, "It is my hope that this report shocks us into action. Even for those of us already committed to fighting climate change, I hope it causes us to work with much more urgency."

The BBC story notes that he repeated those warnings at Davos.

"I feel like I have to tackle this issue as a matter of conscience. [Climate change] is real," he said. "We have to keep up a steady drumbeat in between the extreme weather events. I think our role at the bank is to continue to inform the [public of the] impact [of climate change]."

In a video interview with Bloomberg from the Swiss ski resort, he notes that "in the worst climate scenario, my kids will live in a world without coral reefs, with acid oceans and with wars fought over water" - a statement that leads WEF's own choice of top 10 quotes from its 2013 conference.

Not everyone agrees that coal is a crucial energy diet to help develop poor nations. Renewables group the Desertec Foundation recently criticized the $12 billion that it says the World Bank has invested in fossil fuels over the last six years in poor countries.

"Had this $12 billion been invested in harnessing renewable energy in the sites where the wind blows the hardest or the sun shines the fiercest such as, for example, the deserts of Asia, the Americas and Africa, our mitigation efforts would already have taken a big step forward," Desertec director Thiemo Gropp said.

Want more Dr. Kim? Here's an hour of him last October in a video from the Wall Street Journal via YouTube:

Top photo is a screen grab from Wall Street Journal October video interview of Jim Yong Kim, via YouTube.

More world banking on SmartPlanet:

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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