The headquarters of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in Beijing, China. Picture: REUTERS
The headquarters of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in Beijing, China. Picture: REUTERS

Jeju, South Korea — Leaders of the China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank touted its growing membership and commitment to sustainable development at its annual meeting, even as environmental groups were disappointed by its openness to investing in coal projects.

The bank, which has 80 member countries, was set up to help meet the estimated $26-trillion need for infrastructure spending in Asia to the end of 2030, while also demonstrating that a China-led institution can meet international standards for best practice.

The US and Japan, members of the Manila-based Asian Development Bank, have not joined the China-led bank.

 The bank began operations 18 months ago and has approved $2.5bn in loans. It expects that to reach about $4bn by the end of 2017

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has pledged to use its investments to help members fulfil their commitments to the Paris climate accord, from which the US is withdrawing.

"We will not consider proposals if we are concerned about the environmental and reputational impact," the bank’s president, Jin Liqun, said on Friday at the opening ceremony.

But the bank did get pushback from environmental groups who said they were disappointed the bank’s new energy industry strategy left the door open for coal sector investment.

"I have a hard time reconciling … a statement that says upfront the purpose of the energy strategy is to help countries meet their commitments under the Paris agreement, with ‘we’re going to finance coal projects’," said Andrew Deutz of Nature Conservancy.

Jin said after many rounds of discussion on the bank’s energy policy, "this is the best we can achieve", adding there were no new coal projects in its pipeline of investments.

The bank began operations 18 months ago and has approved $2.5bn in loans. It expects that to reach about $4bn by the end of 2017.

Reuters

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