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The Guardian: Shell protest focuses on EBRD

Shell protest focuses on EBRD
The Guardian – United Kingdom; May 22, 2006

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Green campaigners yesterday staged angry protests outside the annual meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in London over plans to invest in the controversial $20bn (pounds 11bn) gas project on Sakhalin island off the east coast of Siberia.

The protests – including charges that the Shell-led project endangers the lives of 100 rare grey whales – came as the EBRD, the biggest foreign investor in the ex-communist bloc, set out plans for a “green” energy fund in Russia.

The initiative, part of a drive to wean the country and its former satellites from wasteful use of Russia's huge oil and gas reserves, is due to be approved by the 2,500 delegates from 60 countries later today. Jean Lemierre, the bank's president, said greater efficiency was desperately required to prevent Russia from using seven times more energy for each unit of GDP than the west.

But green campaigning groups such as WWF, Friends of the Earth and IFAW, the animal welfare lobby, say the EBRD has invested euros 1.5bn (pounds 1bn) in “dirty” oil and gas projects in the past 12 years. They say the bank, which is thinking of lending $200m to the Sakhalin consortium, is endorsing breaches of environmental standards by the project's developers. Shell owns 55% of the consortium which plans to deliver liquefied natural gas via Siberia to energy-hungry China and Russia.

The EBRD's green initiative is part of a fresh five-year strategy to shift its portfolio from supporting market reforms in central European countries now part of the EU to Russia, the Balkans, the Caucasus and central Asia.

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