ADB’s climate plan riddled with false solutions- greens warn

September 30, 2022 – Reacting to the conclusion of the 55th Annual Meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB),  the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Asia Pacific, said: 

“The ambition of the Bank to finance the requirements of meeting 1.5C goal risks create more inequities as we see continued support for false solutions with the same industrial polluters that pushed us to this climate crisis.” Yobel Putra, Climate and Clean Energy Campaigner said. 

GAIA Asia Pacific said ADB’s investments for Waste-to-Energy (WTE)  incinerators that over 1 billion US$ in combined loans, grants, and technical assistance have been disbursed in the region between 2009 to 2021.  

“That’s a lot of money that could have been better spent supporting measures for preventing unsustainable production, waste collection and segregation, recycling, and redesign for saving more natural resources which could drastically reduce our carbon footprints.”, Putra said. 

The WTE industry is being supported as a solution to waste, energy, and ocean health. GAIA AP says this hampers the region’s efforts to come out of the crisis stronger and greener. 

Global evidence on WTE incinerators shows that the technology is costly and dirty leading to plant closures but leaving behind permanent problems such as a trail of bad debts, long-term health implications for communities, ecosystem damage, loss of jobs for waste pickers and recyclers, and 68% more greenhouse gases per unit of energy than coal plants.

“Countries highly susceptible to impacts of climate change such as ours do not need or want WTE incineration as a waste management solution. When it comes to WTE incineration projects, the Maldivian experience is an experience riddled with debt, corruption, and irreversible environmental destruction! Community-led Zero Waste solutions have proven to be more effective for waste management for us. ADB should stop promoting false solutions to us!”, says Afrah Ismail, Zero Waste Maldives. 

GAIA Asia Pacific calls for the ADB to cease categorizing WTE incinerators as climate-mitigating, enhancing ocean health, and environmental sustainability. The flawed tagging direct policies, international efforts and public finance in support of a polluting industry.  Currently, WTE projects in Maldives, China, Thailand, and Vietnam were supported through ADB’s green and blue bonds financing without meaningful consultations with affected communities and civil society organizations to discuss the merits and implications of these projects.

Stronger protection for people and the planet 

GAIA AP also urges the Bank to develop coherent implementation arrangements and safeguards policies to realize the promise stated in its new Energy Policy meaning that no new projects for incinerators shall take place without considering “holistically the order of priorities— first reducing waste generation, then exploiting the options for reusing and recycling materials and opting for WTE only as the last option. It is also committed to being aligned with international covenants. 

Since last year, GAIA AP has been strongly advocating for the inclusion of economic activities which produce Persistent Organic Pollutants such as dioxins and furans in the Bank’s exclusion list, cognizant of the Stockholm and Basel Conventions. These dangerous pollutants are emitted by waste incinerators and found in their ash residues. During the ADB virtual meeting session on safeguards policy, however, the Asia Development Bank confirmed that it is not excluding projects that generate dioxins and furans. “It is disappointing that the ADB would not respect, Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEA) despite the recent recognition that such air pollutants from the burning of fossil fuels and biomass for energy use, is the principal source of air pollution in the region killing nearly 4.5 million a year,” Jane Bremmer, National Toxics Network of Australia. 

GAIA AP also sees dangers in the Bank’s role in the institutionalization of WTE even in countries with clear legal bans. Aileen Lucero of Ecowaste Coalition in the Philippines also criticized the Bank for violating national environmental laws through its technical assistance support in the conduct of feasibility study, marketing, procurement and other facilitation activities to allow the WTE corporation to enter into a joint venture agreement with the Cebu local government. 

The outdated policy framework and weak implementation of its safeguards policy risk posing more harm than good to cities where these incinerators will be running, especially because most of these are entered into with the private sector with voluntary reporting on environmental and social performance,” said  GAIA AP.  

GAIA AP challenges the Bank to set the direction for a climate resilient and green recovery by developing strategies that are inherently found in the region and have been empowering communities such as the Zero Waste approach.  


Media Contact:

Sonia Astudillo, GAIA Asia Pacific Communications Officer, +63 917 5969286

Campaign Contact:

Yobel Novian Putra, GAIA Asia Pacific Climate & Clean Energy Associate