US climate envoy John Kerry urges multilateral lenders to stop funding coal projects

The Wold Bank has faced criticism from climate activists for continuing to provide backing for fossil fuel investments

FILE - In this March 11, 2021, file photo, U.S. special envoy for climate John Kerry attends a press conference with French Environment Minister Barbara Pompili in Paris. India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Kerry that India was committed to meeting its climate change pledges, and Kerry said the U.S. would support those goals with affordable access to green technologies and financing. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)

US climate envoy John Kerry called on multilateral development institutions such as the World Bank to move away from financing highly-polluting fuels such as coal as he urged countries to ramp up efforts to meet the Paris Agreement targets on capping emissions.

"The World Bank and other MDBs [multilateral development banks] must move away from the finance of coal," the former US Secretary of State told an online panel session hosted by the World Bank during the Spring Meetings.

He called financing coal "dangerous", "damaging" and "counterproductive" to reaching climate goals.

The World Bank

to end all oil and gas investments from 2019 onwards. However, the Washington-based institution has faced criticism from climate activists for continuing to provide backing for fossil fuel investments. German environmental non-profit Urgewald, which tracks coal investments, found in 2020 that the

more than $12 billion in fossil fuels since the Paris Agreement. Of these, $10.5bn were channelled directly into fossil fuel project finance.

Mr Kerry urged multilateral financiers to support countries, particularly developing nations battling the impact of global warming, through additional finance capacity, concessionary money and to support investment in alternative fuels.

With trillions of dollars of stimulus being pumped into the world economy and nearly $3.9tn to be pushed through in the US alone this year, Mr Kerry said there was an opportunity to make sure it was put to sustainable use.

The administration of US President Joe Biden

to provide relief cheques to eligible Americans to help them tide over economic difficulties such as job losses and wage cuts due to the impact of the pandemic last month. Mr Biden, who assumed office with the promise of delivering a greener economy, is currently pushing through a $2tn infrastructure plan, which proposes integrating clean energy in transportation at its core.

The US rejoined the Paris Agreement, which looks to limit global warming to pre-industrialisation levels of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

As the country's main climate envoy, Mr Kerry has leaned on his foreign policy past to meet with key stakeholders

and India, to drive support to tackle global warming.

"We're all going to be spending money to recover from Covid-19. We need to make sure we're making that expenditure for this new energy future," Mr Kerry said.

He also called on countries, particularly the 20 most developed nations, to step up their nationally determined contributions within the World Bank to mitigate climate change.

Mr Biden will unveil the US's "ambitious" climate change commitments at a summit on April 22, Mr Kerry said.

"Those [20 most-developed] countries must step up with adequate levels of reduction that we keep alive the prospect of holding the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees," he said.

The climate envoy also called on the private sector to make significant contributions to tackling the global climate crisis.