Asia, the Multilateral Development Banks and Energy Governance

The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank are key actors in global energy governance and in Asia, spreading new ideas about technology, regulation, policy and service delivery as they invest in new energy infrastructure. They have encouraged market approaches to energy around the world. They are increasingly being held accountable for the environmental and social impacts of their investments. Many are looking to the Multilateral Development Banks to leverage their financing and expertise to facilitate low-carbon development in Asia. Climate change is a growing priority for these institutions, but energy security remains a primary concern for Asian member countries. A role for the MDBs in climate finance has been controversial because of their governance, which is perceived to prioritize developed country interests, as well as a poor record of consistently integrating environmental and social considerations into their engagement. Efforts to reform MDB governance to give developing countries more voice, however, do not guarantee greater transparency and accountability in energy governance, or the prioritization of increasingly urgent environmental social issues. This article considers the implications of a growing role for Asian countries in the governance of the MDBs.

Policy Implications

  • The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have been highly influential actors in global energy governance and in Asia, spreading new ideas about technology, regulation, policy and service delivery as they invest in new energy infrastructure.
  • They have not always effectively reconciled competing environmental, social, economic and geopolitical dimensions of energy governance, however. Their knowledge, technical expertise, finance and convening power can be better harnessed to address these complex challenges. It remains to be seen whether the growing influence of Asian countries over the priorities of the MDBs will allow such opportunities to be seized.
  • Investments in the leadership and staff of the MDBs to equip and incentivize them to make creative investments that more effectively address issues of equity and environmental sustainability will be integral to strengthening their role in the governance of energy.
  • Reforms that make the MDBs more accountable to a diverse cross-section of stakeholders within member countries through improved inclusiveness, transparency and accountability are also imperative. Such reforms are at least as important as reforms aimed at giving developing country governments greater vote and voice in the governance of these institutions.
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