This April’s World Bank meetings marked the final high point in our Light up the darkness campaign. Tearfund Policy Adviser Jo Khinmaung-Moore and our Tanzanian partner Emmanuel Kimbe travelled to Washington DC to discuss the need for greater investment in off-grid renewable energy with World Bank and government officials. Solar panels or micro-hydro plants can transform the lives of people in poverty, creating opportunities to start businesses and increase income. They also enable health clinics to stay open 24 hours and children to study in the evenings.
Earlier this month, we handed in our petition to the UK representative to the World Bank, Richard Montgomery - over 20,000 of you have now added your signature calling on the Bank to light up the darkness for people in poverty. World Bank staff agreed with us that business as usual isn’t enough and a lot more needs to be done, and urgently, to ensure that everyone has clean energy. This is a real shift and they have changed their tune over the last year, when they said they thought they were doing enough.
A new World Bank president was selected at the meetings, David Malpass. We urged Mr Malpass to keep the Bank committed to tackling climate change, including continuing the Bank’s shift from investing in fossil fuels to renewable energy. We held an event with other agencies where Emmanuel spoke passionately about the need for investment in off-grid renewables. He described his uncle’s house in rural Tanzania where there is an electricity pole right outside but no connection from his home to the grid, so he has to use solar panels for energy. He urged the World Bank to play a role in influencing national energy policy and enabling the private sector to function well.
These meetings were the culmination of 16 months of activity. Since we launched in January 2018, thousands of supporters have taken action – signed the petition, pledged to cut carbon in their own lives, asked congregations or small groups to sign postcards, joined the #Lightupthedarkness social media campaign, shown a film or held a Light Service in their churches. It really has made a difference.
In 2018 the Bank announced it had tripled its investments for off-grid renewable energy, to $600 million. In September, the World Bank president announced $1 billion for battery storage for renewable energy. Then at the World Bank annual meetings in October we gave officials a scrapbook full of pictures and quotes from supporters and people in communities around the world, asking them to #Lightupthedarkness. Our partner Thet, from Myanmar, spoke about his country's experience of the benefits of solar power and the need for more investment in small-scale renewable projects. In March 2019, the UK government announced that it will invest an additional £50 million in off-grid renewable energy for Africa. A senior official told us. ‘We’re very aware of your campaign!'
At these most recent Spring meetings in April, World Bank staff presented a new approach to track how many millions of people will be connected to electricity as a result of their off-grid renewable programmes. This is really useful as it shows more impact on people in poverty, and comes after we asked the Bank to track their funding better and publish the results. We’re expecting that the World Bank will increase their funding for off-grid renewables to reach the poorest in 2019 and we’ll watch out for announcements. We’ll continue to call for this in our lobbying.
As Christians, we consider our campaigning to be part of our response to God, seeking to love our neighbour, care for his creation and join Jesus’ mission to restore all things. Last summer, as we prayed, we felt that God was favouring this campaign, reminding us that he cares for the details of what we’re doing. He has counted every hair on our heads after all. Since then, we’ve been blown away by what has been achieved and are thankful to him for all that he has done.
Do keep praying for this ongoing work and for the 1 billion people who still lack access to electricity globally.