World Bank head David Malpass says he's not a climate change denier and won't quit

He acknowledged he should have done a better job responding to questions hurled at him earlier this week

Activists stage a protest at the World Bank headquarters in Washington, calling for world leaders to fire World Bank president David Malpass after his statements casting doubt on climate change. AP
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World Bank president David Malpass said on Friday he won't resign after coming under criticism for his remarks earlier this week regarding climate change.

At an event sponsored by The New York Times on Tuesday, Mr Malpass wouldn't answer directly when asked whether the burning of fossil fuels has contributed to global warming. Instead, he said, “I am not a scientist.”

In an interview with Politico on Friday, Mr Malpass said he wouldn’t resign, and that he hasn’t been asked to do so by any of the bank’s member governments.

He acknowledged he should have done a better job responding to questions on Tuesday, when he was asked to respond to a charge earlier that day from former vice president Al Gore that he was a “climate denier".

“When asked, ‘Are you a climate denier?’ I should have said no," he said.

Mr Malpass also said the World Bank is taking a “forceful leadership” position on climate issues.

“It's clear that greenhouse gas emissions from human activity are causing climate change,” Mr 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.”

Mr Malpass was nominated to the position by former president Donald Trump in 2019, under the long-standing tradition that allows the US to choose the head of the World Bank and European governments to pick the head of the International Monetary Fund. His five-year term ends in April 2024.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Friday that the Biden administration disagrees with Mr Malpass’ comments suggesting climate change is not caused by human activity.

Ms Jean-Pierre did not say whether the administration would seek to remove Mr Malpass, as that would require the approval of other World Bank members.

The Treasury Department “will hold Mr Malpass accountable”, Ms 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.”

Environmentalists have urged that Mr Malpass be pushed out if necessary.

“Climate denialism has no place in a world where millions of people are suffering from the ravages of this crisis,” said Johanna Chao Kreilick, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“Mr Malpass should be replaced immediately.”

Updated: September 24, 2022, 11:10 AM