It was politics that prevented the publication of that paper, according to
one senior bank insider who spoke to the Los Angeles Times, and politics
that has been the principal obstacle to progress since. Only now, with the
Bush administration on the ropes politically and the scientific evidence for
global warming reaching such critical mass that even President George Bush
has been forced to acknowledge its reality, are those same bank officials
trying again to put the issue on the agenda. "Our biggest obstacle has been
that politically, [climate change] is very controversial," Kristalina
Georgieva, the bank’s strategy and operations director for sustainable
development, told the LA Times.
She said that, even under the best of circumstances, it will be at least two
years before the bank starts measuring the impact of fossil fuel-related
projects on the planet’s health. "We are not moving fast enough," she added.
"It’s not possible to be moving fast enough."
The GAP has uncovered evidence of one striking instance of Bush
administration censorship. In 2006, the bank’s vice presidents responded to
a request from the Group of Eight industrialised countries and commissioned
a draft report entitled Climate Change, Energy and Sustainable Development:
Towards an Investment Framework. They endorsed the report, according to the
minutes of a meeting obtained by the GAP.
Subsequently, however, Mr Wolfowitz’s office put out a memo asking the team
to rework the paper, "shifting from a climate lens mainly to a clean-energy
lens". The edited paper issued a few months later was eventually called
Clean Energy and Development: Towards an Investment Framework.
The World Bank has come under fire from environmental groups for a number of
decisions, including a recent grant to develop lignite mining and power
plants in Kosovo. Lignite — or brown coal — pollutes the air heavily when
burnt and is generally regarded as one of the dirtiest fuel sources on the
The investment appears to go against the bank’s own policy, from 2001,
whereby it decided to try to phase out oil and gas investments by 2008 and
to extend an existing moratorium on investments in coal mining.
The GAP put out a report in March detailing similar problems at other
agencies, most notably the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
which, among other duties, tracks hurricanes and other extreme weather
phenomena. The report cited "objectionable and possibly illegal restrictions
on the communication of scientific information to the media" — including
censorship of interviews and press releases.
More recently, the GAP has reported the Bush administration’s refusal to
consider climate change as it prepares to expand the national air transport
system threefold over the next 20 years. A multi-agency group called the
Next Generation Air Transportation System has simply ignored global warming
in its past two annual reports.
Mr Wolfowitz was forced to step down in June after it emerged that he had
given a lucrative sinecure to his girlfriend and offered her excessive pay