Why the EIB got the ‘Coal Down’ award

After a fake press release in which the EIB ‘announced’ its divestment from coal, activists stroke again the next day during the Bank’s annual press conference. In name of EU citizens, President Werner Hoyer received the 2013 ‘World Coal Down’ award. Unfortunately he had to enfeeble the rumours of the EIB’s coal divestment, saying it was “complete nonsense”.

“Lets hope the EIB changes its mind by June, when it is supposed to have completed its energy policy review”, says Berber Verpoest from Counter Balance, a coalition of organisations behind the hoax. “The Bank presents itself as a climate action champ, but we can’t see how it can be a climate action champ if it refuses to be a coal down champ. Coal remains the dirtiest of all conventional fossil fuels.”

EIB president Werner Hoyer receives Coal Down award

EIB president Werner Hoyer receives Coal Down award

The aim of the action was to highlight this contradiction within the Bank’s operations. “But this isn’t just about the Bank. It’s EU member states, the European Commission and the European Parliament that ultimately decide what it does. These EU decision-makers know what they have to do and now it’s high time they showed us that they’re sincere in their desire to ensure a better future for generations to come”, explains Mark Fodor, executive director for Bankwatch, one of the organisations in Counter Balance. “The absurdity of this is that all we’re really asking is that the EU bank’s energy policy be aligned with the EU’s own 2050 sustainability goals. Simply put: no more investments locking us in into dirty energy infrastructure and a full shift towards renewables and energy efficiency.”

With this action Counter Balance and CEE Bankwatch hope to remind the Bank and EU policy makers of where their priorities should lie. It fits within the campaign of both organisations around the Bank’s energy policy revision. Besides getting involved in official consultations and advocacy meetings an important role is to raise awareness among EU citizens. “It’s a challenge to create attention around such a technical issue and it requires creativity to put it in the spotlight”, Verpoest explains.

It took us quite some preparation but luckily we could count on the professional assistance of the Yeslab, the team behind the know hoax machine The Yes Men.

Our starting point was to come up with a positive scenario for the EIB. Instead of blaming the Bank for bad projects we rather wanted to show what we think is the only way forward. We also wanted to encourage the bank because we think it actually can play a much more successful role in financing an energy shift. The award in the form of a smoke stack with flowers coming out – a design by Afreux – visualises this idea perfectly. “I’d love to see this in a real coal fired power plant. Maybe even Sostanj”, Fodor dreams out aloud referring to the highly controversial Slovenian coal plant for which half of a billion euros of EIB support is still pending.

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