House GOP to push World Bank on climate policy

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House Republicans are amplifying pressure on international financial institutions, including the World Bank, that have decided to forbid investments in coal-fired power plants overseas.

GOP members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee are drafting a letter to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim on the new policy, Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., who chairs the panel's Energy and Power Subcommittee, told the Washington Examiner.

"So much of their money comes from taxpayers in the United States. They claim to be concerned about climate change, but in many parts of the world they're using fuels even dirtier than coal, like fuel oil and other things," Whitfield said.

At the World Economic Forum last month in Davos, Switzerland, Kim said that, "This is the year to take action on climate change. There are no excuses."

The push from Republicans comes at a time when President Obama is looking to flex his climate muscle on the global stage.

The World Bank move on overseas coal plants has Obama's support, and it mirrors a new U.S. Export-Import Bank policy that he called for in his second-term climate agenda.

Climate change took a prominent role when French President Francois Hollande visited Washington this week. Obama and Hollande discussed the urgency behind securing substantive commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the 2015 United Nations climate talks in Paris.

“As we work toward next year's climate conference in Paris, we continue to urge all nations to join us in pursuit of an ambitious and inclusive global agreement that reduces greenhouse gas emissions through concrete actions,” said Obama and Hollande in a joint op-ed.

Countries are looking to lock in a treaty to curtail greenhouse emissions enough by 2020 to avoid a 2 degrees Celcius temperature rise by century's end at that conference. Underscoring the Obama administration's international climate emphasis, energy publication ClimateWire reported Tuesday that the White House is quietly crafting a strategy for emissions reductions into 2025 or 2030.

But House Republicans have sought to handcuff Obama's climate goals in the international arena. They succeeded in rolling back some of the Export-Import Bank policy, at least for this year, in the $1.1 trillion spending deal Congress passed last month.

"The president of the World Bank has made comments [about climate change] and we know that the Treasury Department is putting pressure on a lot of these international financial institutions," Whitfield said. "So we want to have a better understanding of precisely what they're doing, why they're doing it, how many applications do they have, is it a formal policy, do they have the legal authority to do it?"

The World Bank and the Export-Import Bank have said they would continue to consider financing overseas coal plants in the most extreme situations, such as for populations that face abject poverty and have little access to electricity.

One such example is a proposed coal-fired facility in Kosovo. While environmental activists have urged the World Bank to resist funding it, the institution has signaled support for the project by suggesting coal-fired generation is the only feasible option.

Still, Kim has doubled down on climate change since he began leading the World Bank in July 2012, with his eye trained on the Paris climate talks.

In Davos, Kim called on nations to double "green bonds" for climate adaptation and mitigation projects, which are awarded to countries vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather associated with it, to $20 billion this year. He set a goal of $50 billion by the time the Paris climate negotiations begin.

Obama and Hollande also discussed enhancing climate aid this week. The White House said the two nations are working on "mobilizing financial and technological support to the most vulnerable and poorest countries."

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