ADB affirms support for waste-to-energy despite opposition

Asian Development Bank (ADB)

THE Asian Development Bank (ADB) said it will continue to support waste-to-energy (WTE) projects, noting their potential to help develop a recycling industry for valuable waste materials while enhancing the liveability of communities and reducing the need for landfills.

Over 50 environmental and human rights groups across the world have called on the ADB to divest from WTE projects that use incinerators.

“ADB will support waste-to-energy investments as they provide an opportunity for integrated cross-sectoral projects enhancing the livability and health in cities and rural areas, and prevent environmental hazards caused by landfills,” ADB Chief of Energy Sector Group Yongping Zhai told BusinessWorld in an e-mail Saturday.

He believes that WTE projects will “reduce waste generation while supporting information communication technologies in extracting valuable materials found in the waste logistics chain.”

“(These projects also allow for) increased integration with waste reuse and recycling, notably the integration of biological and mechanical and recycling, and us[e] waste to generate energy within the confines of planned eco-industrial parks,” Mr. Zhai said.

He added that the ADB has tackled WTE technology in its discussions with non-governmental organizations and stakeholders for the bank’s energy policy review update. The bank is in the process of revising its 2009 energy policy, which will guide its investment decisions until 2030.

The updated policy will “reflect the global commitments on climate and sustainable development” which will support developing member countries in their respective low-carbon transitions. 

The plan in running up against opposition from environmental advocates who claim incinerators add to the global warming problem.

“There is no reason why international financial institutions like the ADB should classify WTE incinerators as climate mitigation,” Froilan Grate, the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Asia Pacific regional coordinator, was quoted as saying in a statement Friday.

“Science and experience show that these dirty, waste-of-energy machines are contributing to global warming as much as fossil fuel-based sources of energy, and are causing harmful effects on human health,” he added.

A March 8 letter signed by GAIA and other organizations argued that WTE incineration is “not an efficient source of energy.”

“WTE projects pose irreversible and long-term fiscal, environmental and social risks for ADB and its (borrowers) because of operational incompatibilities with the region’s waste composition and existing regulations, job losses from recycling, and high investment requirements that profits alone cannot recover,” they said in the letter, which was sent to the ADB Board.

Early this month, the ADB’s Mr. Zhai said the bank is committed to helping its member countries access clean energy. He said the ADB has an $80-billion target for climate financing by 2030. — Angelica Y. Yang