WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A coalition of civic groups in Kosovo has asked the United States to lean on the World Bank to withhold funding from a new lignite coal-fired power plant proposed for the southeastern European nation.
The action by the Kosovo Civil Society Consortium for Sustainable Development will be the first test of new climate-focused lending policies of the bank, a major multilateral lending institution, and the Obama administration.
The ten-group consortium wrote on Wednesday to Secretary of State John Kerry, who as a senator was a vocal climate advocate, asking him to lead a U.S. government effort to identify clean energy sources as an alternative to the proposed 600-MW lignite coal-fired power station.
The project would replace another highly polluting coal plant, Kosovo A, which is due to retire in 2017.
The World Bank's board last month agreed to a new energy strategy that will limit financing of coal-fired power plants to "rare circumstances."
That move, in turn, followed a call by President Barack Obama in June for multilateral institutions and national development banks to end public financing of most coal plants.
"Lignite is the world's dirtiest form of coal, and moving forward on this project would negate the promise of the Climate Action Plan," the group wrote to Kerry.
The United States is the biggest donor country to the World Bank. KOSID said funding the project would cost U.S. taxpayers "millions of dollars" and would not use the best available technology to keep emissions down, as power plants in the United States will be forced to do under Obama's climate plan.
"There are viable alternatives to coal and we ask that you use your leadership on climate change to stop this project and instead seek alternatives that support Kosovo's energy efficiency and renewable energy sources," the group wrote.
Justin Guay, associate director of the Sierra Club's international climate program, said the Kosovan plant opponents sought Kerry's support, in part, because he objected to the project while he was the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The Kosovar government is currently conducting an environmental and social impact assessment which will be presented to the World Bank's board of executive directors in 2014.
As part of the environmental assessment, the Kosovar government will also assess alternatives to the project, including energy efficiency and rewnewable energy.
The Kosovo case will be the first major coal project the bank's board has had to decide on since 2010, when it helped finance a controversial coal-fired power plant in South Africa. Then-Senator Kerry opposed that project.
(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici, editing by Ros Krasny and Jackie Frank)