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World Bank Leader, Accused of Climate Denial, Offers a New Response

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World Bank President David Malpass on Thursday offered his views on climate change amid widespread calls for his removal after he refused to admit that the burning of fossil fuels was rapidly warming the planet. I tried to restate.

In an interview with CNN International Thursday morning, Malpass said he accepts the overwhelming scientific conclusion that human activity is warming the planet.

“It’s clear that greenhouse gas emissions come from anthropogenic sources, including fossil fuels,” he said. “I’m not a naysayer.”

He also sent a memo to World Bank staff obtained by The New York Times, in which he wrote: , and heavy oil in both developed and developing countries is creating another wave of the climate crisis. “

This was in stark contrast to Tuesday, when he refused to admit in a New York Times public event that the burning of oil, gas and coal is dangerously heating the planet.

Malpass took the stage during a debate on climate finance and was asked to respond to comments by former Vice President Al Gore, who called the World Bank president a “climate denier.” Malpass, questioned three times, did not answer whether he acknowledged that man-made greenhouse gas emissions have caused a deepening crisis that is already leading to more extreme weather.

“I’m 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. Loan terms are more favorable than these countries can enter the commercial market, often at low or no cost. Owned by 187 countries, the bank finances projects ranging from energy to education to public health.

Malpass’s ambiguity about the basic facts of climate science quickly made headlines in New York. In New York, thousands of diplomats, policymakers and activists gathered for the United Nations General Assembly and a series of events known as Climate Week.

Many experts say the World Bank, led by Mr. Malpass, is not doing enough to match financing to international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, allowing poor countries to face global warming-induced sea level rise, drought, and climate change. It said it was too late to help deal with other extreme weather events. of the planet. Banks are pushing oil and gas projects despite the International Energy Agency’s declaration that countries must stop funding new fossil fuel development if the world has any hope of averting a climate catastrophe. continue to fund the

Rachel Kyte, Dean of Tufts University’s Fletcher School, said: This week we are participating in the climate debate at the United Nations. “This is an open wound and a disappointment for anything from President Malpass.”

World Bank officials exchanged text messages bemoaning Mr. Malpass’s initial failure to respond Tuesday, undermining the Bank’s climate change efforts, according to people familiar with the matter. expressed disappointment.

Some speculated that Mr. Malpass might step down before his term expires in 2024. Malpass was nominated by President Donald J. Trump as president of the World Bank in 2019. The United States traditionally elects the World Bank’s president and is the largest shareholder, but removing Malpass before his term expires would require the support of the Board of Governors.

One of those governors, Germany’s top economics official, Jochen Flasbarth, reacted with alarm to Malpass’s performance on Tuesday, saying: twitter “I am concerned about this confusing signal from the top of @WorldBank regarding scientific evidence of #climatechange.”

The reaction from many others was even sharper.

“It’s easy,” said Cristiana Figueres, who helped negotiate the Paris Agreement as head of the United Nations Climate Change Organization. said on Twitter on wednesday. “You cannot lead the world’s top international development institution if you do not understand the threat that climate change poses to developing countries.”

Speaking at Wednesday’s event, Mark Carney, who heads the United Nations effort to get financial institutions to help cut emissions, agreed with Malpass’s comments, but with a distinct twist. “I’m not a scientist,” he said. “But I took scientific advice.”

The Biden administration on Wednesday did not say whether it trusted Malpass, but stressed that the agency must play a central role in the fight against climate change.

“We look forward to the World Bank Group becoming a global leader in climate change ambition and mobilizing more climate finance to developing countries,” said Michael Kikukawa, spokesman for the Ministry of Finance. Stated. “We need and will continue to make that expectation clear to World Bank leaders. The World Bank must be the perfect partner in realizing this global agenda. ”

Activists and climate change experts called for Malpass to be removed.

“There is no place for a climate change denier at the head of the World Bank,” said Jules Kotenhorst, chief executive officer of the Rocky Mountain Institute and an expert on energy and climate issues. The World Bank deserves a passionate leader who fully understands the threat climate change poses to poverty reduction, living standards and sustainable growth.”

All of this set events in motion following Mr. Gore’s remarks on Tuesday morning. “We need a new president of the World Bank,” Gore said at a New York Times event. “It’s ridiculous that the president of the World Bank has a climate change denier.”

Malpass’ comments to CNN did little to soften his criticism.

Friends of the Earth’s senior international policy campaigner Luísa Abbott Galvão said: “Yesterday, following diplomatic recommendations from the U.S. Treasury Department and other shareholders, it is clear that he intends to continue his work. “Malpass has been making climate-denying comments for over a decade. No, that’s exactly what we’ve seen in my three years as World Bank President.”

Tasneem Essop, executive director of Climate Action Network International, also continued to call for Malpass’s dismissal after his comments on CNN.

“If the World Bank’s mission is to end poverty, it is at odds with continued funding of fossil fuels, which are the main drivers of the climate crisis, who live in poverty the hardest. factor,” she said. “His track record does not indicate that he is taking the climate crisis seriously.”

Before taking over the World Bank, Malpass was a Treasury official in the Trump administration. A comment in 2007 suggested that they did not believe there was a link between carbon emissions and global warming, raising concerns among environmental activists. His wife, Adele Malpass, Chairman of the Daily Caller News Foundationis a non-profit organization closely associated with conservative media groups that frequently publish articles and opinion pieces questioning climate science.

During Mr. Trump’s presidency, Mr. Malpass was a fine line, prudently fulfilling his bank’s climate obligations without belittling his former boss. Trump famously called climate change a “hoax” and pushed the US out of the Paris climate accord and into fossil fuels.

After Biden took office, Mr. Malpass seemed more open to discussing climate change publicly. on the bank’s website Details of the initiative Invest in renewable energy projects and fund efforts to make poor countries more resilient to extreme weather.

The Treasury Department oversees the relationship between the United States and the World Bank. Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen urged Malpass and other heads of multilateral development banks to help countries reduce emissions, invest in adaptation and climate resilience, and align their operations with the Paris Agreement. I have urged several times to do more to support

Next week, Mr. Malpass will host a Town Hall for World Bank staff ahead of the Annual Meetings in Washington in October.

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