World Bank vows to keep board apprised of climate action progress

FILE PHOTO: Wildflowers bloom on a hill overlooking a fjord filled with icebergs near the south Greenland town of Narsaq July 27, 2009. REUTERS/Bob Strong

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The World Bank on Tuesday agreed to boost its spending on climate change to 35% from 28% and to provide annual progress reports to its board after its draft climate change action plan came under fire for lacking a clear implementation strategy.

The bank, the largest source of climate finance for developing countries, said it would also publicly release a roadmap to show how it will help those nations meet their Paris climate accord targets.

Bank officials pledged to provide the board with regular updates, with details to be included in an addendum to the plan, Genevieve Connors, who oversees tracking and reporting of climate finance for the World Bank, told Reuters.

"This is really transformational in the way we do business," she said. "One of the central differences of this (climate change action plan) is that we as the World Bank Group have now elevated climate to be central to everything that we do."

The World Bank released some details of its five-year plan in April, saying it would help developing countries reduce greenhouse gas emissions by aiding the transition out of coal. But it drew fire for stopping short of halting all funding of fossil fuel projects.

The bank's plan calls for increase the amount it dedicates to climate finance, which has totaled $83 billion over the past five years, peaking at $21.4 billion in 2020.

Environmental campaigners took aim at the new plan on Tuesday, saying its failure to completely end fossil fuel investments undermined the broader goals.

"The World Bank Group’s selective approach to phasing out fossil fuels is about as effective as throwing both water and gasoline at a house fire," said Luisa Galvao, a campaigner with the U.S. arm of Friends of the Earth.

Connors said the bank would assess gas investments on a case-by-case basis and that gas projects would face high thresholds to win funding.

In some cases, it makes sense to proceed with gas projects, Connors said, adding that there was no firm deadline for halting all such investments.

"It's a moving target," she said. "We see it as a journey towards decarbonisation ... but our countries are all on different pathways and there always may be extenuating circumstances in which a particular natural gas project may make sense. But the hurdles are high, and proof needs to be shown."

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal in Washington; additional reporting by Kate Abnett in Brussels; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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