Go nuclear for Earth Day?

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Tomorrow is Earth Day. This week the airwaves and the column inches have been stacked with bits and pieces of what should be a strategic energy debate - from the global political to the personal.

Here in Washington, NPR's morning edition carried an interesting piece on South Africa's nuclear energy capacity. The airwaves are jammed with nuclear proliferation debate focused on weapons capability more than energy needs. Gorbachev, now head of Green Cross International and the man in charge when Chernobyl leaked, doesn't say no to nuclear energy. And Turkey announces its plan to develop nuclear energy.

Turning to the personal, there was a fascinating op-ed in the NY Times by Jamie Lincoln Kitman about the truths and myths of hybrid cars and the incentives that may prove to be perverse and a new poll in the UK shows that public opinion is warming to nuclear energy.

Into this cauldron we have launched the 2005 IFC Sustainability Report showing our investments in sustainable energy growing, but there is much more we can do. There is substantial low hanging fruit in helping improve the energy efficiency for our portfolio clients. For new business, installing cleaner technologies and processes counts. At the same time watch this space for new structured finance carbon products, new financial products for local banks in emerging markets to lend for energy efficiency and cleaner energy choices in housing finance, as well as corporate finance. And then there is the ever present need to find ways to make commercially viable renewable energy in emerging markets and/or to find ways to apply subsidy at the appropriate place to ensure that renewable energy grows as a source of energy, and meets the needs of the poor.

There is much to be done to find ways to light, heat and power the bottom of the pyramid: the world's 2 billion people who live in poverty. But should we support nuclear energy in emerging markets to diversify and green energy supply? That debate remains to be had.


Rachel Kyte

Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change

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