The President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has pledged to increase support for the COVID-19 recovery and to step up the Bank’s work to tackle climate change.
Odile Renaud-Basso was speaking at the EBRD’s Annual Meeting, marking 30 years since the Bank was founded in 1991 with a remit to rebuild the formerly communist economies in Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Since then, the Bank has expanded its work to include parts of Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa and made investments totalling €150bn.
Later on Thursday, the Bank’s Governors will discuss a proposal that all of the EBRD’s activities be aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change. Renaud-Basso said the shift to net-zero-carbon economies would become “the main organising principle” of the Bank, which already aims to make green finance the majority of its business by 2025.
She also said the Bank would do everything it could to help the economies in which it invests recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and move from the emergency response phase to measures aimed at longer-term economic rebuilding. The Governors’ session on Thursday will launch a discussion, whereby the economies in which the Bank invests will be asked what help they need.
Research published by the EBRD earlier in the week showed that the recovery could be faster than originally thought, but that many of the 38 economies in which the Bank invests might face difficulties, as they are heavily dependent on service industries, which were harder hit.
The EBRD has a particular focus on supporting the private sector and backs its investments with advisory and policy activities – for example, helping countries to develop policies for energy efficiency or renewable energy markets.
Renaud-Basso said that the Bank’s support for building back from the impact of COVID-19 should focus on “making our economies greener, more inclusive, and more digital.”
“As the pandemic comes under control and restrictions on the economy are lifted, we will move from coping with the immediate crisis to planning for the longer term,” she added. “We need to continue to lead – and continue to inspire. Here we have the advantage of being both small enough to be responsive and flexible, but big enough to make a real difference across the three continents where we work.”
On the Bank’s green mission, she said: “We now need to be even more ambitious, while ensuring that people and businesses adversely affected by the transition are supported through it. We would like to make the shift towards net zero the main organising principle for the Bank and its activity. That would mean screening all our projects with this in mind; that we always travel along low carbon pathways; and that, in short, we constantly seek to advance the cause of climate finance.”
The President was speaking to an audience of Governors, representatives of the 71 countries and institutions that are shareholders of the Bank, as well as staff and business partners. The Annual Meeting was held online for the second time, although next year the Bank hopes shareholders will be able to meet in person at an event to be hosted by Morocco, one of the countries that is both a shareholder and recipient of Bank investment and support.
Renaud-Basso was elected last year as the EBRD’s seventh President and the first woman to lead the Bank. She thanked staff for their commitment over the past year and spoke with pride about the EBRD’s 30 years of achievement. She said: “The time for making history is not over. It never is, of course, as the past year has shown. But our Bank, the EBRD, born in times of momentous change 30 years ago, remains uniquely able to make more history.”