(GIN) – A $3.75 billion loan from the World Bank for a massive coal-fired power plant has run into a hornet's nest of opposition from South Africa's labor unions and environmentalists.
US, Britain, the Netherlands, Italy and Norway abstained from vote amidst sharp criticism from the Obama administration that the project would fuel climate change.
The loan was approved for the government-controlled Eskom, Africa's largest carbon emitter - responsible for 40 percent of South Africa's total emissions.
"Access to energy is essential for fighting poverty and catalysing growth, both in South Africa and the wider sub-region," said Obiageli K Ezekwesili, World Bank vice president for the Africa region in defense of the project.
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa opposed the loan as did the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance and the South African Council of Churches, which played a key role in criticizing the World Bank in the past due to its apartheid financing.
"Giving the go-ahead to the Medupi coal plant, which will release massive amounts of greenhouse gases for decades… amounts to a step backward when the world is moving forward to a clean energy future," said Peter Goldmark, director of Environmental Defense Fund's climate and air program.