Climate Activists Mark President Ajay Banga’s Bullish First Year

Activists placed a cutout of the Wall Street bull outside the World Bank Group office in Washington, D.C. to mark the delivery of petition signatures and a group letter asking President Ajay Banga to oust Wall Street influencers by abolishing his newly-created advisory body, the Private Sector Investment Lab.

Friends of the Earth U.S. and partners marked Ajay Banga’s first year as president of the World Bank Group by exposing the Wall Street ties that are stymieing climate action at the financial institution. After years of following a private-sector-first approach to development, the World Bank Group faces growing pressure from civil society groups around the world to stop subsidizing private financiers under the guise of climate action, and to instead help facilitate massive public investment in a global just energy transition.

The Private Sector Investment Lab is a “who’s who” of leaders of major financial institutions that collectively manage an estimated wealth of USD $16 trillion. These institutions are largely responsible for continuing to profit from climate destruction and associated environmental and social abuses.

The creation of this Lab was one of Banga’s first actions after shareholders asked the Bank to better position itself to address “global challenges” like climate change. The Lab was tasked with “[developing] solutions to address the barriers to private sector investment in emerging markets,” particularly by increasing private finance going to renewables and energy infrastructure.

Yet limited public finance from the World Bank Group should not be used to subsidize profitable private firms, which constitutes an unacceptable conflict of interest. Through Banga’s Lab structure, private firms may suggest that the World Bank Group adopt policies that can benefit companies instead of prioritizing the Bank’s mission of ending poverty and inequality and safeguarding the planet.

In the letter, Friends of the Earth and partners call on Banga to “use the Bank’s existing resources and structures to support thinking and policies on how to facilitate massive public investment in the green energy transition.” The letter closes by asking Banga – a former MasterCard CEO with no public service experience – who he works for, “the world’s poorest people, or Wall Street?”

“It’s no mystery why we’re failing to see climate justice at the World Bank Group when polluting profiteers are the ones whispering in Banga’s ears,” said Luisa Abbott Galvao, senior international policy campaigner for Friends of the Earth U.S. “The World Bank and its major shareholders have long pushed the failed approach of de-risking private finance for development, and President Banga has put this idea on steroids. The WBG should be directing limited public money towards a public-led, global energy transition, instead of devising strategies to line Wall Street pockets.”

Full statement can be found at the website of Friends of the Earth

Group letter that was delivered to Ajay Banga and World Bank Executive Directors can be downloaded here.