World Bank boss makes U-turn on his ‘regrettable’ climate comments after Al Gore called for his ousting

·3 min read

The World Bank president appears to have heeded mounting calls for his resignation and made a U-turn after he refused to say that the climate crisis was real.

During a New York Times event on Tuesday, David Malpass, a nominee of former president Donald Trump, obfuscated when asked if he accepted scientific evidence that the worsening climate crisis was caused by humanity burning fossil fuels.

He was asked point-blank about his views hours after Al Gore, the climate activist and former vice president, described Mr Malpass as a “climate denier” during a panel. Mr Gore called for President Joe Biden to remove Mr Malpass from his post and criticized the bank for continuing to provide capital to fossil fuel companies for work in developing countries.

Mr Malpass was repeatedly asked about Mr Gore’s claim, and whether he recognised the scientific consensus that fossil fuel use is “rapidly and dangerously warming the planet”.

He refused to provide a direct answer to the question, instead telling the audience: “I’m not a scientist.”

On Thursday, Mr Malpass sent a note to World Bank staff acknowledging the reality of the climate crisis, according to Politico.

“On climate, it’s clear that greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are causing climate change, and that 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 the climate crisis. Anything seen in a different light is incorrect and regrettable,” Mr Malpass’s note read, acccording to Politico.

The Independent has contacted the World Bank for comment.

Mr Malpass was appointed to the role of president of the World Bank after being nominated by Mr Trump in 2019.

Climate activists and other political figures joined in Mr Gore’s call for the bank boss’s removal after his appearance.

Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, chairwoman of the house financial services committee, issued a statement calling Mr Malpass’s refusal to accept the overwhelming scientific consensus on the climate crisis “appalling”.

“It’s extremely concerning that the leader of the world’s premier development institution and largest source of climate finance would call into question the vast scientific evidence upon which the Bank’s climate work is presumably based or should be,” it read.

Bill McKibben, longtime environmentalist and founder of grassroots climate movement 350.org, used his weekly newsletter to call for the banker’s resignation.

“Some essential climate tasks are hard and expensive and take years,” he wrote. And a few could not be easier. President Biden needs—now—to get rid of David Malpass as the head of the World Bank.”

John Kerry, the US special envoy for climate change, who also appeared at the event earlier this week was asked whether the World Bank president had the confidence of the White House.

Mr Kerry declined to comment, saying: “That’s the president’s decision.”

However, he indicated support for the bank’s stance could be thin on the ground in the Biden administration.

Speaking about multilateral development banks and their role in the climate crisis, Mr Kerry said: “We need to have major reform, major restructuring.”

“It’s up to us to pull people together and get that reform, and there’s a lot of discussion about us doing that right now.”