The World Bank’s David Malpass faces calls to quit after dodging climate questions

New York City

Climate Action Groups around the world are calling for the resignation of World Bank President David Malpass after he refused to answer a question about the cause of the climate crisis.

During a panel discussion Tuesday, Malpass dodged a question about whether he accepted the scientific consensus that humans burning fossil fuels were “rapidly and dangerously warming the planet.”

“I don’t even know, I’m not a scientist and that’s not a question,” Malpass said when asked by the New York Times during a discussion at Climate Week in New York. Moderator David Gelles then prodded him again, “Are you going to answer the question?”

Malpass replied, “We have a strong World Bank mission,” before asking Gelles to answer the question again, to no avail.

Asked to respond to former Vice President Al Gore’s claim that he was a “climate denier,” Malpass said he had never met Gore, a remark he called “very strange.”

Scientists have known for decades that humans’ burning of fossil fuels is the main driver of climate change.

Malpass’s comments have sparked outrage and consternation among climate activists and experts around the world, and a coalition of organizations joined Gore in calling on the World Bank to fire him or resign.

Former US President Donald Trump appointed Malpass to head the World Bank in 2019 for a five-year term. As the bank’s largest shareholder, the US appoints its chairman.

Tasneem Essop, executive director of the Climate Action Network, which represents more than 1,800 groups around the world, called Malpass a “self-denying climate denier” and said it was “inexcusable” to head the bank.

“The World Bank continues to use public money to finance fossil fuel projects in countries of the Global South, where people are already suffering the worst impacts of climate change,” he said in a statement. “Malpass cannot remain as president of the World Bank to maintain any shred of decency.”

Sonia Dunlop, a climate expert at the E3G think tank, which works with banks and international financial institutions such as the World Bank, called Malpass’s remarks “a step too far”.

“It’s time for the White House and governments around the world to think hard about who they want to head the World Bank,” he said in a statement. “You don’t have to be a scientist to understand climate science; the facts are clear, and there is no alternative but action.”

When asked for comment, the White House referred CNN to the US Treasury. “We look forward to the World Bank Group being a global leader in climate ambition and mobilizing much more climate finance for developing countries,” a Treasury spokesman said.

“We must and will continue to make this expectation clear to the leadership of the World Bank. The World Bank must be a full partner in fulfilling this global agenda.”

The World Bank declined to comment on Malpass’ demands for his resignation. Asked about Gore’s criticism that the World Bank has not improved financing for climate projects in poorer countries, a spokesperson said: “The World Bank Group is the largest multilateral financier of climate investments in developing countries.”

“Under the leadership of David Malpass, the World Bank Group doubled climate financing, published an ambitious Climate Change Action Plan and launched country-level diagnostics to support countries’ climate and development goals,” the spokesperson said, echoing similar comments made by Malpass. in discussion

The organization also highlighted their previous work against climate change. It provided $31.7 billion in fiscal year 2022 to help countries deal with the climate crisis, he said.

This money has been allocated to help expand access to water in Romania and improve waste water treatment; Fund a solar PV plant with a battery energy storage system in Malawi; and promote sustainable landscape management in Nigeria, according to the bank.

Malpass has been under fire before: dozens of climate organizations sent a joint letter last October calling for his replacement and the World Bank for stronger climate action. This letter was signed by 77 groups, and they demanded an immediate end to all actions to promote coal, oil and gas. He said the World Bank had failed to “place itself before science and justice” on climate issues.

The letter also criticized the World Bank’s previously published Climate Change Action Plan for 2021, which would allow some fossil fuel investments to be made for two to four more years.

The letter said the plan was an attack on the rights of communities worst affected by the crisis.

The World Bank has reduced new investments in coal power over the past decade and stopped financing oil and gas operations in 2019. But he has ignored calls from fellow European councilors and climate campaigners to completely phase out fossil fuel funding.