Investing in Agrofuels is Dirty Business

posted by Rainforest Action Network

This weekend the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) governors and directors are in Miami for their annual meeting. And where there is unaccountable and unsustainable finance, there is also a broad alliance of representatives from Indigenous groups, human rights, environmental, and developmental organizations from across Latin America, the US and Europe out protesting the bank’s policies and practices.

The IDB’s lending procedures exacerbate poverty, displace communities and destroy pristine environment throughout Latin America. Subsidies for mega-projects such as hydroelectric dams, roads, pipelines, mining, and other resource extraction and dirty energy infrastructure are helping multinational corporations carve up important ecosystems, such as the Amazon, as well as make it impossible for people to continue to depend on their land. In addition, these projects and the deforestation required to develop them contribute gravely to climate change.

Check out IDB Watch, a civil society publication of analyses of the Bank’s policies.

RAN organized a rally outside Saturday’s bank meeting to call attention to these issues and demand that the bank be more accountable to the people it purports to serve, as well as to highlight one of its recent unveilings: investment in agrofuels.

The bank recently approved a total of $45 million in loans and technical cooperation funds to agrofuel projects and is now considering another $3 billion in private sector loan projects. Easily the largest investments are supporting export-oriented infrastructure and ethanol facilities, which provide relatively few jobs and do little to support development that reach those who need it most, while the expanding industrial scale mono-cropping threatens ecosystems and biodiversity.

Meanwhile, the IDB’s Sustainable Energy and Climate Change Initiative (SECCI) fund, which originally had $20 million to invest in assistance for renewable energy, energy efficiency, adaptation to climate change and development of carbon markets, has been used mainly to promote the expansion of ethanol production for export. Increasingly, studies are questioning the contribution of agrofuels to abating carbon emissions, given that crop-based agrofuels often increase emissions significantly as a result of deforestation and the destruction of other natural ecosystems that act as carbon sinks.

RAN and allies were in front of the Miami Beach Convention Center Saturday with a balloon banner that drew attention to the bank’s investments in agrofuels. Individuals from the varied Latin American civil society groups and U.S.-based NGOs spoke at the rally, accompanied by a guitarist and his repertoire of Latin American protest songs.

As one of the largest sources of funding for Latin American development, the IDB has a responsibility to invest consciously, sustainably and with transparency. It’s hard to say if the bank internalized our message yesterday, but we did reach somebody…the guy who leased us a sound system for the rally handed me a donation to give to RAN!