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Kim Says World Bank Can’t Reject Coal If People Freeze

April 17 (Bloomberg) -- The World Bank, which has boosted investment in renewable energy, cannot refuse to finance a coal-fired plant in Kosovo if the alternative is having people there “freeze to death,” the lender’s president said.

As the Washington-based institution considers providing partial guarantees for a lignite-fired power plant in the Balkan country, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said today he’s looking for all possibilities to avoid investing in coal. If the lack of energy became “a humanitarian issue” and the bank got involved, it could at least make the project cleaner, he said.

“I don’t think it’s fair to tell the people in Kosovo ‘While the rich countries continue to burn coal, you’re going to have to freeze to death because it’s against our political ideology to support you,’” Kim said on a panel discussion in Washington today. “I can’t do that.”

The Kosovo plant would be the first major coal project getting World Bank support since 2010. Kim has vowed to boost the lender’s contribution to easing the effects of climate change as part of a new goal to eliminate extreme poverty, though he’s also said poor countries cannot be denied access to energy.

“The issue for us in Kosovo is that their need for energy is so severe that it’s not a question of whether everyone can have three refrigerators and multiple flat-screen TVs,” Kim said today.

More than 50 organizations wrote to Kim this month asking him to stop financing fossil-fuel projects, saying his commitment to addressing climate change would be judged on the bank’s lending practices.

“We will look for everything we can possibly do to avoid that but look, poor people should not pay the price with their lives of mistakes that people have been making in the developed world for a very long time.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Sandrine Rastello in Washington at srastello@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Wellisz at cwellisz@bloomberg.net

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