David Malpass hit the international stage three years ago when he was nominated by President Donald J. Trump to be president of the World Bank. He is tasked with improving the economies of poor countries, many of which are being ravaged by extreme weather caused by climate change.
However, Mr Malpass barely talks about global warming, being careful not to rank Mr Trump, who famously called climate change a “hoax” and pulled the US out of the climate agreement. Paris.
This week Mr Malpass’s refusal to acknowledge that burning fossil fuels is rapidly warming the planet has sparked a debate inside and outside the organization about whether the bank is doing enough to help banks. The country is currently grappling with floods, heat waves, devastating droughts or not. and other impacts, and whether funding new oil and gas projects is exacerbating the problem.
Jochen Flasbarth, a senior economic official in Germany and one of the bank’s directors, said on Twitter “We are concerned about these confusing signals about the scientific evidence of #climatechange from the top of @WorldBank.”
The uproar began on Tuesday when Mr Malpass refused to say at a public event at The New York Times whether burning oil, gas and coal causes climate change.
Speaking on stage during a discussion about what industrialized nations owe to developing nations facing climate problems, Mr Malpass was asked to respond to comments made by former Deputy President Al Gore, who called the World Bank president a “climate denier”. Pressed three times, Mr Malpass will not say whether he accepts that man-made emissions of greenhouse gases have created a worsening crisis leading to more extreme weather.
“I am not a scientist,” he said.
The World Bank’s mission is to reduce poverty by lending money to poor countries to improve their economies and living standards. More favorable lending terms than those countries can obtain in the commercial market, often at low or no cost. The bank, owned by 187 countries, funds a wide range of projects from energy, education to public health. And there is growing pressure on the bank to do more to help countries facing climate catastrophe.
Malpass’s appearance on Tuesday sparked an international outcry. By Thursday, he was working hard to restate his views on climate change amid widespread calls to fire him.
In an interview on CNN International on Thursday morning, Malpass said he accepts the overwhelming scientific conclusion that human activity is warming the planet.
Understanding the controversy surrounding David Malpass
“It is clear that greenhouse gas emissions come from man-made sources, including fossil fuels,” he said. “I’m not the one in denial.”
He also sent an internal memo on Thursday to World Bank staff, in which he wrote “it is clear that greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are causing climate change and The sharp increase in the use of coal, diesel and heavy fuel oil in both advanced economies and developing countries is creating another wave of climate crisis”.
Many experts say the World Bank under Malpass has not done enough to tie its lending to international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and is going too slowly to help poor countries cope. with climate impacts. The bank continues to finance oil and gas projects, despite the International Energy Agency’s statement that countries must stop funding new fossil fuel development if the world has any hope of averting the disaster. climate disaster.
Malpass’s disdain for climate science quickly became a hot topic in New York, where thousands of diplomats, policymakers and activists gathered for the United Nations General Assembly. and a series of events called Climate Week.
Rachel Kyte, dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University, said: “This happened because there was a very real debate about how quickly all the capital that was in the bank could be deployed. more quickly and decisively in the current world situation”. participated in climate discussions at the United Nations this week. “This is an open wound, and anything from President Malpass is disappointing.”
According to several people familiar with the exchange, World Bank staffers exchanged text messages complaining about how Mr Malpass spoiled his initial response on Tuesday and expressed disappointment that he had failed to respond. undercut the bank’s work on climate initiatives.
Discontent within the World Bank has led to questions about whether Mr. Malpass will leave before his term expires in 2024. Even though the United States is the World Bank’s largest shareholder and traditionally selects the no. leadership, but removing Mr Malpass before the end of his term would require the backing of the board.
Christiana Figueres, the Costa Rican diplomat who helped negotiate the Paris climate accord as head of the United Nations climate agency, says Mr Malpass should go.
“It was simple,” said Mrs. Figueres . say on Twitter on Wednesday. “If you don’t understand the threat #climatechange poses to developing countries, you cannot lead the world’s leading international development organization.”
Speaking at an event on Wednesday, Mark Carney, who is leading a United Nations effort to call on financial institutions to help reduce emissions, echoed Mr Malpass’s comments – but with a twist. distinctive. “I am not a scientist,” he said. “But I took scientific advice.”
Scott Morris, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, said that the World Bank’s climate agenda was not thwarted by Mr Malpass, but his remarks underscored the need for a more ambitious approach.
“The best thing we can attribute to him is that he doesn’t seem to be actively intervening in the path the bank has gone down,” Morris said, adding that there was increasing pressure on the bank to do more to combat climate change. change. “It’s no longer enough that he can simply rely on the performance of his own organization.”
Tasneem Essop, executive director of the International Climate Action Network, said the bank cannot continue to pour money into oil and gas projects as it did under Mr Malpass. “If the World Bank’s mission is to end poverty, it is inconsistent with continued financing of fossil fuels that have been a key driver of the climate crisis affecting those living in poverty,” she said. live in the poorest conditions”.
Malpass’s fate has been a subject of debate within the Biden administration, with some officials wanting President Biden to resign or try to arrange his removal, and others unwilling to start a tradition. new means the World Bank leaders. be replaced when the president of the United States changes hands.
“It’s challenging for the Biden administration to say that this is not our man, we need to get rid of him,” Morris said. “There’s not much precedent for that.”
The Biden administration would not say on Wednesday whether it had confidence in Mr Malpass but stressed that the institution must play a central role in fighting climate change.
“We expect the World Bank Group to be a global leader in climate ambition and to mobilize significantly more climate finance for developing countries,” said Michael Kikukawa, ministry spokesman. Finance, said. “We have and will continue to clarify that expectation with the World Bank leadership. The World Bank must be a full partner in the implementation of this global agenda”.
Activists and climate experts call for Mr Malpass’s removal.
“There is no place at the top of the World Bank for climate advocates,” said Jules Kortenhorst, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Institute and an expert on climate and energy issues. “David Malpass needs to resign. The World Bank deserves a passionate leader who fully appreciates the threat that climate change poses to poverty reduction, improved living standards and sustainable growth.”
All of that, according to Mr. Gore’s remarks on Tuesday morning, set events in motion. “We need a new head of the World Bank,” Mr. Gore said at the New York Times event. “It is ridiculous to have a climate denier as head of the World Bank.”
Mr Malpass’s efforts on Thursday did not satisfy his critics.
“At this point it is clear that he is trying to get on with his work after a diplomatic warning from him,” said Luísa Abbott Galvão, senior international policy campaigner at Friends of the Earth. US Department of the Treasury and other shareholders”. “Malpass has been making climate denial comments for over a decade. We can’t have a situation where a World Bank president says nice things publicly but works behind the scenes to stop action, and that’s exactly what we’ve seen for three years. as his World Bank president”.
Before taking over at the World Bank, Mr. Malpass was an official in the Treasury Department under the Trump administration. He has rarely spoken publicly about climate change in that role, although comments from 2007 indicate he does not believe there is a link between carbon emissions and global warming that has prompted environmentalists to worried. His wife, Adele Malpass, is the president of the Daily Caller News Foundation, a nonprofit closely affiliated with the conservative media group that often publishes articles and opinion pieces questioning gas science. Queen.
After President Biden took office, Mr. Malpass appeared willing to discuss climate change more openly. On its website, the bank details its efforts to invest in renewable energy projects and to fund efforts to make poorer countries more resilient to extreme weather.
The Treasury Department oversees the United States’ relationship with the World Bank. Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen has repeatedly urged Mr. Malpass, and the heads of other multilateral development banks, to do more to help countries cut emissions, invest in adaptation and climate resilience and align their practices with the Paris Agreement.
Mr Malpass is scheduled to host a town hall for World Bank staff next week, ahead of the October annual meetings in Washington.