World Bank’s Malpass faces calls to quit after climate change doubts

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World Bank President David Malpass answers a reporter’s question during an opening press conference at the 2019 Fall Annual Meetings of IMF and Banking Governors World Bank, in Washington, United States, October 17, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Theiler

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WASHINGTON, Sept 21 (Reuters) – World Bank President David Malpass came under heavy criticism on Wednesday after he refused to say whether he accepted the scientific consensus on global warming, reigniting concerns over the no deadline for the bank to stop financing fossil fuels.

Malpass appeared at a New York Times event during Climate Week in New York on Tuesday and was asked if he thinks “the artificial burning of fossil fuels is rapidly and dangerously warming the planet.” Malpass initially tried to dodge the question but later said, “I don’t even know. I’m not a scientist.”

The remarks, which circulated on social media, drew criticism from former climate diplomats and civil society groups who called on President Joe Biden to replace Malpass as president of the multilateral development bank.

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The President of the United States, the largest shareholder of the World Bank, traditionally appoints the presidents of the World Bank. Former President Donald Trump nominated Malpass for a five-year term in 2019.

The future of a second Trump Development Bank appointee, Mauricio Claver-Carone, director of the Inter-American Development Bank, is also uncertain after an investigation into allegations of a relationship with a staff member. Read more

“How is this possible in 2022? This apathy is producing weak climate action when countries so desperately need help and funding from @WorldBank,” former French climate envoy and architect Laurence Tubiana tweeted. key to the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

“People and governments now need a WB leader who listens to science,” said Tubiana, now CEO of the nonprofit European Climate Foundation.

A coalition of civil society groups on Wednesday called on the World Bank to fire Malpass.

The World Bank and the White House declined to comment.

The US Treasury has said it expects all partners to commit to tackling climate change.

“We expect the World Bank Group to be a global leader in climate ambition and in mobilizing far more climate finance for developing countries,” a spokesperson said. “We have – and will continue – to make this expectation clear to World Bank management. The World Bank must be a full partner in achieving this global agenda.”

Last year, more than 70 non-governmental organizations jointly called for Malpass to be replaced on the grounds that the bank was failing to take climate action.

The World Bank cut new investment in coal power in 2013 and stopped funding upstream oil and gas operations in 2019, but has so far resisted pressure from European board members and climate activists to phase out fossil fuel funding altogether.

In January 2021, the Bank’s Board of Directors approved a $620 million investment in a multi-billion dollar liquefied natural gas project in Mozambique.

“It’s time for the White House and governments around the world to think seriously about who they want to lead the World Bank,” said Sonia Dunlop of think tank E3G. “You don’t have to be a scientist to understand climate science.”

Other experts said that a solid understanding of climate science should be a prerequisite for serving as president of the World Bank at a time when climate-related disasters are becoming more frequent and affecting many developing countries. development that receive financial support from the Bank.

“Climate change will have the biggest impact on the world’s poorest, so the failure of the head of the World Bank to be clear and forceful on tackling climate change sends the wrong message,” Gilbert Metcalf said. , former Deputy Under Secretary of the Treasury for Environment and Energy. under the Obama administration.

Former US Vice President Al Gore earlier this week described Malpass as a climate denier.

Selwin Hart, the UN secretary general’s special adviser on climate action, also criticized the World Bank at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow last year.

The big banks, especially the World Bank, “can’t keep tinkering while the developing world burns,” he said.

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Reporting by Valerie Volcovici and Kate Abnett; Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Lisa Shumaker

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