An open letter to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) from members of Philippine civil society

The following is an open letter to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) from members of Philippine civil society, coursed sent to all members of its Board of Governors, in the hope that it will be considered during the Board’s annual meeting to be held in Jeju, South Korea this June 16 to 18, 2017:
Responding to the urgent demands concerning the climate crisis, energy poverty, and the need for development, and recognizing the capacity of people-centered renewable energy systems in providing accessible, clean and safe energy for the people’s benefit, we, the undersigned, call on the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to:
1. Realize its commitment to be a lean, clean, green Bank, by refusing to fund dirty, deadly, and costly energy projects such as those reliant on fossil fuel and nuclear energy;
2. Establish safeguards to ensure that mega-renewable energy projects do not endanger ecosystems, and consider their social and cultural impacts, especially to the impacted host communities; and
3. Prioritize investment in small, decentralized projects rather than the big renewable energy projects.
The reality of climate change propels institutions across the world to re-evaluate and reform its approach to issues of the environment, energy, and social justice. We, the solidarity of civil society organizations, grassroots communities and peoples across different sectors concerned and affected by the continued use and expansion of coal in Southeast Asia, express our collective concern for the policies which will be undertaken by the AIIB pertaining to energy and development projects it sets its eyes on funding for the foreseeable future.
Reputable authorities such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the International Energy Agency (IEA) all warn of a four degree Celsius rise in average global temperatures by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase at their current rate, far from the aspirational goal of keeping the world at an average global temperature of 1.5 degrees Celsius as articulated in the Paris Climate Agreement.
The devastation caused by weather extremes and natural disasters here and across the world is only the beginning of a new and more volatile climate regime. This puts the Philippines, one of the top five most vulnerable countries to climate change, on the edge of oblivion, as seen in the extended periods of droughts experienced in the last three years, and the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan four years ago, from which its survivors have yet to fully recover.
On the other hand, the prevalence of energy poverty in the Philippines, with over 16 million people lacking access to electricity exacerbates economic, social, and environmental vulnerabilities, and keeps the promise of the development from the country’s so-called emerging economy, far from the reach of its citizens.
Truly, there is a need to address the equally important demands of realizing the commitment to combat climate change, as espoused in the country’s Nationally-Determined Contribution (NDC), and pursuing energy justice for the benefit of the Filipino people. We recognize the intention of the Bank to invest in energy and development projects in the country and urge the Bank to consider these realities in its Strategy.
The historical role of established international financial institutions like the World Bank (WB) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in fuelling the climate crisis and widespread maldevelopment in developing nations, particularly in Southeast Asia, cannot be understated, manifested by their continued support for destructive energy projects such as power plants powered by fossil fuel and nuclear energy. We urge the AIIB not to follow in these footsteps, and to distinguish itself as the “lean, clean, green” Bank it professed to be.
We commend the initiative of the AIIB to consult with civil society and peoples’ organizations in the rounds of public consultations on its energy and climate strategy, which led to many significantly positive policy positions such as investments on decentralized renewable energy systems, prioritizing pollution monitoring, as well as refraining from funding nuclear projects at least at present.
We however, reiterate the concerns of environmentally-conscious groups and institutions, in emphasizing that there is simply no more room for new coal. While we recognize the need to address the energy-access, especially for Asians who have not had access to modern and environmentally-sound energy for decades – or even centuries – we urge the bank to prioritize renewable energy investments in fulfilling its commitment to achieving the energy-for-all agenda.
Along these lines, we also discourage the AIIB from entertaining the possibility of funding nuclear projects in the future. There will be no time in the near or far-off future that would warrant the risks and dangers nuclear energy poses. We urge the Bank, to refrain from investment on energy sources of the past, and be the leading financial institution to fund the shift to a cleaner, safer, more people-centred energy future.
Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED)
Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ)
Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD)
Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM)
The Climate Reality Project Philippines
Freedom from Debt Coalition
Save Sierra Madre Network Pilipinas
PRRM – Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement