U.N. chief 'encouraged' by development bank climate pledge, urges more

FILE PHOTO: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during an interview with Reuters at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 14, 2020. Picture taken September 14, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar

LONDON/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Thursday he was “encouraged” by a joint declaration on sustainable finance by the world’s development banks, but that more was needed.

The world’s 450 public development banks agreed on Wednesday to align their lending with the aims of the Paris climate accord, but Guterres said more money should be spent on climate finance and it needed to happen faster.

He reiterated a call for the banks to phase out lending for fossil fuel projects and also urged ministers of finance to do more to shape the strategic direction of the banks before the next major United Nations climate conference in November 2021.

“I ask all development banks to commit to exit from coal, domestic and abroad, and urgently phase out fossil fuel finance. And call on governments to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, with clear timebound targets and plans,” he said.

However, the banks’ declaration, published on Thursday, stopped short of a firm commitment to phase out fossil fuel financing, even if some, including a group of European banks, have pledged to do just that.

The declaration was signed by a number of development bank associations, plus multilateral development banks including the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the African Development Bank Group.

Several leading lenders including the World Bank did not sign, although they were listed as having acknowledged the declaration. The World Bank did not immediately reply to a request for comment as to why it did not sign.

NGOs lamented the lack of a firm pledge to quit fossil fuels.

“Without a concrete commitment to end public finance for fossil fuels this summit can’t be considered a success for climate action,” said Laurie van der Burg, senior campaigner at non-profit Oil Change International.

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