International Trade and Climate: KosovoThe international community is at a crossroads. With the world’s continued use of dirty fossil fuels, unprecedented climate disruption is ravaging countries worldwide, jeopardizing both our public health and our environment. Luckily, the world’s leading financial institutions -- like the World Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development-- have pledged to stop funding major coal projects overseas except in rare cases. But the real test of that commitment is at hand in Kosovo.

The World Bank, with the United States government as a major supporter, has begun the initial process of building a new coal-burning power plant in Kosovo, Kosovo C. Seen as an effort to meet the energy demands of this young country, Kosovo C would replace one of the oldest and biggest polluting coal-burning plants in Europe.

But what the World Bank has failed to realize is that by building Kosovo C, not only will their superficial commitment to clean energy be revealed, but they’ll be funding something Kosovo doesn’t need at all -- more dirty fuels. Instead, Kosovo and nations around the world are primed for more in energy efficiency and clean energy.

The project would fund the burning of more lignite -- a low-grade, low energy density coal -- from which 98 percent of Kosovo’s power is produced. This extensive use of lignite results in hundreds of early deaths, unprecedented new cases of chronic bronchitis as well as tens of thousands of new cases of childhood respiratory disease and emergency visits to the nation’s hospitals each year. Given the already rampant use of lignite, it is clear that cleaner, more efficient energy sources are needed to quell the damage from this perpetual coal cycle and move Kosovo away from 19th century fuels into a 21st century energy future.

Currently, nearly one-third of the nation’s energy is wasted on an antiquated and inefficient transformer fleet and energy grid. By increasing energy efficiency, this waste would be drastically reduced and in turn would save countless lives and much-needed money. Additionally, transitioning to clean energy sources over time will ultimately allow Kosovo, its people, and its environment a healthier, safer future.

As the realization of the damaging effects continued use of dirty fuels has on our planet becomes increasingly widespread, many people and organizations are taking action to combat anthropogenic climate disruption through modifications of existing energy systems. The Kosovar people are fighting back and advocating for increased energy efficiency and use of clean energy sources. Advocacy groups, like the Kosovo Civil Society Consortium for Sustainable Development (KOSID), have been working tirelessly to protect their country as well as their people. The Sierra Club has been working closely with KOSID over the past three years to help them meet this goal.

The people of Kosovo want to take part in this movement but currently face obstacles, like the World Bank’s push to construct the dirty and dangerous Kosovo C. But it’s time to make a change. The World Bank must reconsider its stance on Kosovo C and help Kosovo and its people work toward a cleaner, healthier future for generations to come.