Asian Development Bank Must Stop Undermining Climate and Health Goals: Withdraw from Waste-to-Energy Incinerators, Now!

Manila – The Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) – Asia Pacific condemns the continued promotion and commitment of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to invest in Waste-to-Energy (WTE) incinerators. It has also relentlessly shaped country and regional energy and climate policies and guidelines to include this polluting technology as a renewable or clean source of energy. 

The ADB has conducted the last four days of the  Asia Clean Energy Forum (ACEF) as a virtual marketing platform for the WTE industry and its backers to sell this technology to governments and development planners.  While WTE promoters enjoyed speaking spaces to promote its false solutions,  there was no space provided for communities and grassroots organizations to challenge the purported promises of environmental, social, and financial opportunities from WTE incinerators and to be heard on how these technologies impact their health, jobs, and their environment. In summary, the ACEF has been nothing but an arena for industry polluters in shaping the narrative of what a low-carbon energy mix should look like for the region. 

Investing in WTE incinerators undermines national and global goals to keep temperatures at 1.5 degrees and achieve resilience amid the urgency to act strongly on climate, health, and fiscal emergencies in the region. Incinerators are dirtier than the rest of the grid. Per unit of electricity output, they emit 3.8 times as much greenhouse gases — 1.9 times as much carbon dioxide, 15 times as much nitrous oxide and methane, and 66 times as much biogenic carbon dioxide as the grid average. WTE incinerators are also known to create persistent organic pollutants as byproducts of their operations. 

The ACEF’s silence on the impacts of WTE incinerators on poor and marginalized communities. WTE incinerators are always placed beside low-income communities that cause long-term, multi-generational health impacts from toxic air and groundwater pollution. WTE also threatens informal workers in the waste sector and poses a threat to the generation of green jobs as these facilities wipe out opportunities by burning waste that should have been up for recycling. WTE destroys the resilience of the poor and marginalized communities and should have no place in the just transition. 

Instead of bringing toxic energy and unsustainable debts, we urge the ADB to invest more in environmental waste management priorities which begins with waste reduction, reuse, to recycling instead of incinerating precious and finite resources.

The ADB, as a development bank, whose aim is to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development in the region should also cease in shaping the narrative that industry polluters are the drivers of innovation on energy, waste, and inclusion. This narrative negates the existing Zero Waste practices and communities that sustainable waste management patterns in the Asia Pacific.

We are also deeply concerned that the newly-adopted ADB Energy Policy 2021, which states that investments in WTE incinerators shall flow only after meeting the following requirements 1)  after careful consideration of their political, social, and environmental contexts and in accordance with international conventions, 2)  provided that the feedstock for combustion results from a prudent order of waste management priorities, and lastly 3) first reducing waste generation, then exploiting the options for reusing and recycling materials, remains to be an empty promise. To date, we have not seen any guidance framework to ensure that these precautionary measures and priorities are in place. We strongly call for the immediate implementation of this policy requirement immediately. 

We call on the ADB to stop undermining national and global development objectives and align its investment policy to the requirements of the Paris Agreement, international instruments, and other development objectives for a truly just and resilient path to net zero. ####

Media Contact:

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

Campaign Contact:

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