Co-authored by Nezir Sinani of KOSID
Despite the World Bank president Dr. Kim's high-profile calls to tackle climate change, the institution continues to barrel forward with its support for a dirty new coal plant in Kosovo. Local civil society has made its opposition to these plans abundantly clear. However, even with a climate and health activist at the helm, the Bank refuses to change course. Now, armed with the World Bank's own statistics, and some devastating public health advertisements, Kosovar civil society is opening a new front in the battle against coal.
Their fight is premised on a simple but devastating truth: coal plants kill. In Kosovo, they kill 835 people every year according to the World Bank's own statistics. Those stats, are found in a report released in September 2012. The same report includes a bevy of alarming data about the impact of pollution on the health of Kosovo residents:
• 835 early deaths;
• 310 new cases of chronic bronchitis;
• 22,900 new cases of respiratory diseases among children (most often asthma);
• 11,600 emergency visits to country's hospitals;
• Over 100 million euro in direct costs connected to this problem, all of which were paid from the pockets of already impoverished Kosovo citizens.
Kosovars didn't take this news lightly. They used it as a basis for a series of ads airing on national television. The ads drive home the implications of the choice before this young nation -- a dirty coal fired future, or one powered by clean, renewable energy.
As the ads make clear, one option is deadly. But they also show that another path is possible. That's because 40 percent of the electricity generated in the country is lost in the electricity grid. If the country's authorities and the World Bank tackled this problem, increased energy efficiency (weatherizing buildings for example), and deployed modest amounts of renewable energy (the country has a number of wind projects lined up) then Kosovo would simply not need a new coal plant.
That means no one has to die. Not today, and not 40 years from now when the new coal plant continues to belch toxic pollution every single day into Kosovo's largest city Pristina. Pollution that will cut short the lives of the country's children.
Dr. Kim has been a vocal critic of just this sort of short-sighted view: "the imperatives of growth at any cost increasingly determine economic and social policy and the behavior of global corporations, more people join the ranks of the poor and greater numbers suffer and die."
Now is his opportunity to walk the walk. The growth his institution is supporting has real cost, the lives and health of the people of Kosovo. He alone can put an end to this project. He alone can ensure a safe, healthy future for the citizens of Kosovo.