In April 2011, Canada’s Citizens Climate Lobby was tasked with a seemingly naïve project: secure an appointment at the World Bank in Washington, DC. Our assignment was to lobby the World Bank to end financing of fossil fuel projects.
I had read Stephen Lewis’s frustrating accounts about lobbying at the World Bank in his book “Race Against Time.” Consequently, I had doubts about our chances of success.
The World Bank’s goals are to end extreme poverty within a generation. We had ample evidence that it is morally and financially questionable to invest in fossil fuels that would ultimately impact people living in poverty in a very negative way.
Empowered and supported, I phoned the Canadian, Irish and Caribbean division at the World Bank and secured an appointment on behalf of Citizens Climate Lobby to discuss our concerns about our tax dollars being used to finance fossil fuel projects.
In June 2011, alongside fellow Citizens Climate Lobbyists Loykee Au, Adrianna Mugnatto-Hamu, Cheryl McNamara and John Reaves, I ventured to the World Bank for the first time.
John eloquently outlined our concerns. Our connection at the World Bank was very sympathetic to our concerns. He, in turn, educated us about procedures at the World Bank.
The election of Dr. Jim Yong Kim, a medical doctor and climate champion, as president of the World Bank Group on July 1, 2012, bolstered our hopes that the World Bank would stop financing fossil fuel projects with our tax dollars.
In June 2013, a Canadian adviser at the World Bank arranged for us to meet with the Civil Society and Climate Change advisers at the World Bank at my request.
At the end of that meeting, Citizens Climate Lobby was invited to speak at the World Bank’s next Civil Society meeting in October 2013.
In July 2013, Marshall Saunders, CCL’s founder and president, sent a broadcast email that the World Bank announced that it would no longer finance coal projects except in extreme circumstances. A wave of elation spread through 100-plus CCL groups across North America.
In total, CCL has lobbied at the World Bank five times. The question of CCL’s contribution to the World Bank’s decision to end financing of coal projects will never be known for sure.
One thing is known for sure though: well-informed citizens giving input to decision-makers is needed and welcomed at the World Bank.