After nearly two years of discussions, the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member countries have reached an agreement on reducing their support to some coal plants through their export credit agencies (ECAs). The agreement comes a day after the G20 has reiterated its willingness to reduce inefficient fossil fuel subsidies and only 12 days before the start of COP21, the climate change conference. The agreement, which takes effect in 2017, still allows the most efficient “ultra-supercritical” plants, and less efficient plants in the very poorest countries.
Global public support for coal is decreasing. Obama has pledged to stop American support for public financing of new coal plants outside the U.S., the World Bank has announced to phase out support for coal projects and some large private banks are withdrawing from fossil fuels. But what about export credit agencies (ECAs)? Until now, ECAs have not withdrawn from coal projects. On the contrary: while other investors gradually cease their support to coal projects, export credit agencies are investing in coal more than ever. On June 11, an alliance of 50 NGOs, including Both ENDS, published a recommendation to the OECD calling for an end to export credit support for coal.
The climate debate in the Netherlands is bogged down in what we can change at home and does not touch on our actions abroad. And that is a missed opportunity. Precisely because our international trade model is both so influential and, at the same time, such a widespread cause of pollution, changes in that policy can have an immediate effect.
The European Parliament in its plenary session on the 5th of April, adopted a proposal to regulate Export Credit Agencies (ECAs) that will force them to become more transparent on where their funds come from, and go to, as well as how they count social and environmental risks. Furthermore, the Parliament requires ECAs to comply with EU human rights objectives in their activities, and to phase out the subsidising of fossil fuel projects in line with commitments adopted by the G20 in 2009.
By 2020, all EU countries must blend 10% of their transport fuels with renewable energy. In practice, these are mostly biofuels. Minister of State Joop Atsma is now trying to reach this percentage by 2016, even though a lot of studies show that biofuels made out of agricultural crops decrease food provision and cause deforestation. Four civil society organisations, including Both ENDS, are asking the Dutch Parliament to try and halt the Minister of State.
In 2015, the member states of the United Nations committed themselves to the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Unlike their predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the SDGs recognise the importance of equality within and between countries, of decision-making processes in which all people are included and heard, and of legal systems that are independent and accessible to all.