Development Banks have no place in factory farming

2nd Jul 20 by Mia Watanabe

Development finance institutions should neither materially, nor symbolically support environmental degradation.

Today, an investigation by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism revealed that two international financial institutions, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), invest USD $2.6 billion in unsustainable, intensive livestock production. Feedback, together with the Global Forest Coalition, an international coalition of NGOs and Indigenous Peoples’ organisations defending the rights of forest peoples, have written to the presidents of these organisations calling for change. We are joined in this call by 31 other civil society organisations.

Much of this $2.6 billion in financing went to support controversial ‘mega-farm’-style production in regions with high per-capita meat consumption – not to sustainable, climate-resilient and agroecological production. Livestock production is already a leading cause of climate breakdown, and business-as-usual growth scenarios for this industry project that, within ten years, the livestock sector will account for almost half (49%) of the world’s emissions budget for 1.5°C by 2030 and 80% by 2050. Industrial livestock production, or ‘Big Livestock’, is carbon-intense and extractive at its core; much of the land cleared for growing feed and cattle ranching occurs in the global South, as illustrated by disproportionate fires in the Amazon and other biomes. This, in turn, is exacerbating existing inequalities as Indigenous peoples and local communities face displacement, criminalization and violence.

We are outraged that the EBRD and IFC may be financing such destructive operations. Development finance institutions should neither materially, nor symbolically support environmental degradation through unsustainable agricultural practices. As the IFC states, “the livestock sector is a key pillar of food security and poverty reduction in many countries” – but research from the Global Forest Coalition clearly shows that there are alternatives to industrial models of production better placed to meet these aims.

Furthermore, this financing inherently contradicts both the IFC and EBRD’s policies on a ‘green transition’. From the EBRD’s strategy for a Green Economy Transition to the joint IDFC-MDB statement on alignment with the Paris Agreement, development finance institutions have a global responsibility to support low-carbon and climate resilient development. To truly support these ambitions, international development finance must take seriously their goal of redirecting financial flows ‘in support of transitions towards low-carbon and climate resilient sustainable development’, in the words of the joint IDFC-MDB statement on alignment with the Paris Agreement.

To align their finance with the Paris Agreement and resolve their blatant hypocrisy, we demand that these institutions:

  • Commit to a strategy to align investments with ‘peak livestock’, ensuring an end to all financing in support of industrial meat and dairy production, including feed production.
  • Ensure that investments are in line with human rights obligations and redirect financial support to sustainable, climate-resilient and agroecological production.

Considering the threat of both the climate emergency and the global pandemic, it is essential that both the EBRD and IFC follow through with these actions. For a future that protects and sustains all livelihoods globally, there is no reason to finance unsustainable livestock production.

We eagerly await their response.

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