October 21st, the Stockholm chapter of UNA-Sweden, attended the World Bank and energy seminar on sustainability and development for poor countries. We are facing two challenges – climate crisis and poverty. Niclas Hällström, climate expert at the The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC), was the moderator. He opened the seminar with stating that poverty reduction is related to the climate challenge and time is short.
Reverend Siyabulela Gidi, from the South African Council of Churches, made the most gripping speech and instead of the common PowerPoint presentation, he simply had a picture of electricity theft in the background. It illustrated how the rich get electricity and how the power utility supplier Eskom cuts it off for the poor.
With a humorous tone, he warned the audience: ”I am a priest and might preach on the podium.” Rev Siyabulela continued with saying that South Africans take Sweden seriously. The Sweden that he knows struggle for the poor people.
He is gravely concerned about the arms deal that involved Sweden and South Africa. Infront of a predominantly Swedish audience, he was brave enough to say it is an absolute embarrassment. Addressing the Swedish government and people, he said by funding this multi-billion loan you are actually contributing to the problem. He said that in South Africa, they have the ”politics of the stomach”, and suggested a decentralisation of energy and emphasised the importance to fund small communities that actually benefit. Hitachi’s contract with Eskom for boilers does not lead to any jobs for local people.
Alberto Barandiaran, Citizens Movement for Climate Change, Peru, said the World Bank should focus on national projects. The World Bank is an important stakeholder. Explain to the IFC why gas reserves go to export rather than domestic needs. Most of the reserves are in indigenous areas. The macroeconomic growth is not going to the Peruvian people. Mr Barandiaran completely agrees with small scale rather than huge projects. The money goes to the government and their friends.
Fiona Lambe, scientist at the Stockholm Environment Institute, said there is a relation between access to energy and development. Residents in New York state consume roughly as much electricity as the population of sub-Saharan Africa. We will not reach the Millenium Development Goals if we do not increase access to electricity. Developing countries actually need to increase their consumption to develop.