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Investments in new energy-efficient technologies and business practices that help reduce the effects of climate change have not been significantly undermined by the global economic crisis, says the Asian head of the International Finance Corp.

The IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, stuck to its strategy of long term planning and private sector support in a sustainable, socially responsible way despite the financial crisis, said Sérgio Pimenta, the institution’s East Asia and Pacific director.

Pimento said while private companies, as well as consumers, have become more cautious and are paying more attention to their spending and investments, his anecdotal experience is that “there’s no less appetite” for smart, long term planning that meets environmental standards. “We still see in our daily interaction with clients that they want to do it,” said Pimenta. “Maybe they are more continuous of how they finance or structure it, or what the impact will be, but we have not seen any slowdown of our business on that front.”

IFC made record investments in Asia Pacific in fiscal 2011, which ended in June. The development institution committed about $3.9 billion to 120 projects across the region. Asia accounted for 21 percent of global investments.

Pimenta stressed the long-term outlook of the IFC, which means that they do not change their strategy during economic downturns. “That’s the big difference between us and another players in the financial market, in the region or globally. We look beyond a crisis, however severe or big it is.”

“Key agendas like climate change can be impacted by risk aversion. People will go to more conservative approaches. We still try during that period to be present in the areas where we think we can have more impact, such as climate change related investments, to show that this is actually the right time to do it. Let’s not wait until everything is rosy to start saving on energy and fuel consumption.”

He said the IFC tries to promote sustainable solutions that make sense on a long term financial basis, which helps counter changes in short term trends in strategy. “If you changed to energy efficient bulbs a few years ago, and today you need to buy a new bulb, are you going to go back to the old style? Probably not, you know you will save money.”

China investment

Pimenta said that the IFC has done considerable work providing support to Chinese companies going overseas, as well as working on investments in China. With Chinese banks stepping in to bail US and European banks the whole idea of developing, poor countries versus the developed rich countries became rather blurred. However, Pimenta said it’s important to look past a country’s glitzy new cities and instead look for signs of development among its people.

“We shouldn’t lose focus on the development indicators, poverty, literacy, health levels,” he said. “We look at new buildings and new activity, but the time it takes for economies to catch up on these indicators is a long term perspective.” 

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