Kerry pushes World Bank to support cleaner power plants

The World Bank must improve programs that support low-emissions energy projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and expand energy access, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said Wednesday.

Kerry, a chief architect of Senate proposals to attack global warming, used a midday speech at the Bank’s headquarters to outline steps the Bank and similar institutions must take to become “21st-century” development banks. Among them: avoiding finance for coal-fired power plants that do not trap carbon dioxide emissions.

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“When even my Senate colleagues from coal-producing states talk about implementing clean coal technologies, the Bank shouldn’t be in the business of funding yesterday’s coal technology,” said Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Better financing decisions, he said, would flow from better gauging the costs and benefits of various energy technologies. He also said the Bank should become more aggressive in getting borrowing countries to move forward with low-emissions alternatives in meeting their energy needs.

Kerry said the easiest way for low-income countries to meet their energy needs will sometimes be from implementing efficiency measures rather than building new coal-powered power plants.

His wide-ranging speech endorsed governance changes at the bank and International Monetary Fund. He noted that China now represents 11 percent of global GDP, yet Belgium and the Netherlands jointly have more voting shares. Voting weights must be rebalanced, he said.

Kerry also provided a plug for passing slow-moving legislation to cap U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

“If other countries believe we won’t deliver, they are not going to take us seriously on any of this when we ask them to do the same,” he said.

During a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday, Kerry and five other chairmen with jurisdiction on the climate bill clashed over how and when to move legislation.

Bank President Robert Zoellick said the agency is already moving on Kerry’s climate agenda. “The agenda you set out is an extraordinarily good one. We have been trying to work on some of these issues but we look forward to working with you and your colleagues to advance the agenda,” he said.