Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images
Climate activists are calling on President Biden to take steps to fire David Malpass, the head of the World Bank, after he publicly questioned whether he believes greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are causing climate change, saying, “I’m not a scientist.”
Malpass made the comments after former vice president, noting that climate activist Al Gore called him a “climate denier” New York Times event on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly earlier this week.
🌎🔥Today I asked the president of the World Bank @DavidMalpassWBG if he believed in the scientific consensus that the man-made combustion of fossil fuels is heating the planet rapidly and dangerously.
“I’m not a scientist,” he said.
Here’s a thread on the remarkable exchange. 1/ pic.twitter.com/t0nQheybzi
— David Gelles (@dgelles) September 20, 2022
Malpass then tried to clear up his comments, saying: Politics on Friday that it was a “poorly chosen line”. Malpass defended the bank’s investments and said he would not resign.
That did little to silence calls for his removal.
“We need climate leaders in the World Bank, we need climate leaders in the Federal Reserve, we need climate leaders in every high aspect of the office,” said Thanu Yakupitiyage, a spokesperson for 350.org, a fossil fuel climate advocacy group. .
“If he’s not going to be the one to really push and pressure the World Bank in a new direction that’s really working on climate initiatives, then he should go,” Yakupitiyage said.
It is unbelievable that the American who runs the World Bank is a climate denier at this late hour.
Biden better find a conscious person for the post.
— Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) September 21, 2022
Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for Concordia Summit
The White House is making its displeasure public
Malpass’s climate controversy quickly reached top White House officials, who were in New York this week for the UN General Assembly. A senior government official told reporters it “clearly raises eyebrows”.
On Friday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre directly criticized Malpass and the bank — and would not say whether President Biden maintains confidence in Malpass’s leadership.
“We do not agree with President Malpass’s comments,” Jean-Pierre told reporters. “We expect the World Bank to be a global leader in climate ambition and mobilizing significantly more climate finance for developing countries,” she said, noting that the Treasury Department “has made that clear and will continue to make that clear.”
The United States plays a key role in appointing the president. But other countries that are shareholders of the bank would have a say in any change in leadership, Jean-Pierre said.
“Removing him will require a majority of shareholders, so that’s something to keep in mind,” she told reporters.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
It’s not the first time Malpass has come under fire
Malpass was nominated for a five-year term at the bank in 2019 by former President Donald Trump. The World Bank’s board of directors generally approves the nomination of the United States, the bank’s largest shareholder.
He has long been criticized by climate and environmental advocates for the bank’s continued funding of fossil fuel projects around the world. They argue that more needs to be done to move to cleaner energy sources.
Malpass’s latest comments were a “remarkable blunder,” said Scott Morris, co-director of sustainable development at the Center for Global Development, but said there is a deeper rift between the bank and climate activists.
“Climate advocates are becoming increasingly frustrated that this institution, which is really a central player, is not showing the kind of climate ambition they think is necessary,” said Morris, explaining that Malpass hadn’t pushed for the change. bank in that direction.
“You’re comparing it to where the climate community thinks the bank should go and it’s just not ambitious enough,” Morris said. “He is clearly not trying to push the bank further in the right direction and has shown no specific climate ambition beyond the baseline of support the bank is now providing.”
Lisa Frank, executive director of the Washington Legislative Office of Environment America, said it was good that Malpass finally acknowledged that his comments were flawed. But she said actions speak louder than words. “Investing in fossil fuel projects is incompatible with what we need to do to tackle global warming,” Frank said.
World Bank president David Malpass said he was not considering stepping down after being criticized for dodging repeated questions about the science of climate change. (He later backtracked on his answer)
– POLITICS (@politics) September 23, 2022
Malpass admits he could have answered the question better
Earlier this month, the World Bank touted that it would spend $31.7 billion in fiscal year 2022 to help countries tackle climate change and called itself the “world’s largest funder of climate action in developing countries.” Projects range from expanding the solar industry in India to biodigester programs in Sub-Saharan Africa to increasing affordable access to electricity in Nigeria.
Defending the bank’s record on climate, Malpass said it made a “powerful leadership task” and used climate science to find investments that would have the greatest impact. He said he was taken aback by the question about his beliefs about climate change.
“To the question ‘Are you a climate denier?’ I should have said no,” Malpass said. “Nobody said that other than Al Gore, and it was kind of off-topic,” he told the… Politics event.
“It’s clear that GHG emissions from human activity contribute to, cause climate change, so the job for us – for the world – is to bring together the projects and the funding that will actually make an impact,” he said.