Our work on international finance focuses on “following the money.” We track some of the world’s largest and most powerful financiers to curb harmful financing activities, adopt high environmental and social safeguards, and bankroll ecologically sustainable alternatives.
The World Bank Group
The World Bank Group aspires to “eradicate global poverty and create sustainable development,” but its projects and policies have often led to the opposite result, with devastating environmental and human rights consequences throughout the world. The World Bank persists in propping up and investing in natural resource-based megaprojects in developing countries — like big dams and coal mining — despite displacement of communities, harm to Indigenous Peoples, release of greenhouse gases and other serious negative impacts.
Friends of the Earth is working to make sure that the World Bank — with its troubling record on the environment, human rights, climate impacts, and development — cleans up its act as a major climate polluter with a poor development track record.
The U.S. Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation
The U.S. Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation are two taxpayer-supported agencies which support U.S. multinational corporations doing business abroad. Over the last decade these federal agencies have provided tens of billions of dollars in fossil fuel and other harmful projects abroad that worsen climate change, damage the environment, hurt local communities, harm human health, lead to human rights abuses, spawn corruption, increase geopolitical instability and humanitarian disasters, while failing to address the energy needs of the poor. A historic lawsuit filed by Friends of the Earth and, subsequent Congressional action and more recently, President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, have compelled these agencies to adopt better policies to protect global climate, the local environment and human health. However, these policies are now under assault by fossil fuel politicians in Congress.
Wall Street banks and their international counterparts
Friends of the Earth is a founding member of BankTrack, an international NGO advocacy network that advances accountability and sustainability in the international banking sector. In the U.S. we work to strengthen environmental and social financing standards at the leading Wall Street banks; internationally, we support allies in China as they promote environmental responsibility among Chinese banks and corporations.
A “green bond” is functionally like any other bond issued by governments, financial institutions or companies. It is a tradable financial instrument that allows the issuer of the bond to borrow funds with a promise to pay back the money (i.e. the principal), usually with interest, by a certain date. The distinction is that green bonds are supposed to raise money for environmentally beneficial purposes only. A “climate bond” is a type of green bond that is specifically supposed to address climate change problems, though the two terms are often used interchangeably.
Depending on how, which and where activities are financed, green bonds can be an important tool to shift private investment from brown to green. To learn more about green bonds, and potential concerns, see:
- Issue brief: Green Bonds, by Friends of the Earth U.S., BankTrack and International Rivers, September 2014
- Press release: Ban Ki-moon urged to champion public funds for climate finance, 118 civil society groups ask UN chief to ensure private finance is not counted towards climate finance goals, and to prevent greenwashing in the green bond market, September 18, 2014
- Blog: To Ban Ki-moon: Champion public funds for climate finance, fight greenwashing of green bonds, September 26, 2014
- Further resources: NGO letter to UN Secretary General, guarding against the greenwashing of green bonds, September 18, 2014. For further background, see BankTrack’s webpage.
Fact sheets, letters and articles
- World Bank
- Energy access
- International banks
- International climate finance
- ESIA Ghana Takoradi Port expansion comments
- Talk is Cheap: How G20 governments are financing climate disaster
- New report series: Emerging sustainability frameworks at Chinese and Brazilian national development banks
- World Bank, Climate Change, and Energy Financing: Something Old, Something New?
- Unclear on the concept: how can the World Bank Group lead on climate finance without an energy strategy?
- Bankrolling climate change: A look into the portfolios of the world’s largest banks (BankTrack)
- China Development Bank report