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World Bank chief rejects calls to quit over climate remark

September 24, 2022

David Malpass has come under fire from environmental groups after he declined to say if he believed in the scientific consensus that climate change is man-made.

A protester at the World Bank headquarters in Washington carries a banner that reads, "World leaders: Drop climate denier Malpass from the World Bank!"
Environmentalists have urged that Malpass be pushed out of the World BankImage: Kevin Wolf/AP Images for Glasgow Actions Team/picture alliance

World Bank President David Malpass was defiant to calls for his resignation after he declined to say whether he accepts the scientific consensus on climate change. 

Environmental activists have accused Malpass of climate change denial and demanded he resign

In an interview with Politico on Friday, Malpass said he wouldn't quit, and that none of the bank's shareholders had asked him to step down.

The World Bank chief acknowledged that his remarks were "unfortunate."

'I should've said no' 

"When asked, 'Are you a climate denier?' I should have said no," he told Politico.  

He stressed that the bank is taking a "forceful leadership" position on environmental issues and appeared to backtrack on his previous remarks.

"It's clear that greenhouse gas emissions from human activity are causing climate change,'' Malpass said in the Friday interview.

"So the task for us, for the world, is to pull together the projects and the funding that actually has an impact.''

At an event sponsored by The New York Times on Tuesday, Malpass refused several times to answer the question of whether he believed in man-made climate change.

"I don't even know. I'm not a scientist," he said after several attempts by journalist David Gelles to get an answer from the World Bank chief. 

His response triggered an outcry by climate diplomats and organizations, who called on US President Joe Biden to remove him from his position.

Washington seeks 'accountability'

On Friday, the White House said it condemned Malpass' comments.

"We expect the World Bank to be a global leader of climate ambition and mobilization," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.

Jean-Pierre said the US Treasury Department "has and will continue to make that expectation clear to the World Bank leadership."

The Treasury Department "will hold Malpass accountable,'' Jean-Pierre said, "and support the many staff working to fight climate change at the World Bank. But again, removal would require a majority of stakeholders."

As per a longstanding tradition, Washington picks the head of the World Bank, while European governments choose the head of the International Monetary Fund.

fb/aw (AP, Reuters)