Faced with requests for resignation, Malpass changes the response to the climate crisis

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WASHINGTON, Sept. 22 (Reuters) – Under pressure to step down for refusing to say whether he accepts scientific consensus on global warming, World Bank President David Malpass said Thursday it is clear greenhouse gas emissions are causing climate change. and defended his record as a bank head.

Malpass tried to reiterate his views in a note to staff and in an interview with CNN International, during which he was asked if he was a climate change denier. His views of him were scrutinized after he refused to say at a public event this week if he believes the burning of fossil fuels is warming the planet.

“I’m not a denier,” Malpass told CNN International.

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“It is clear that greenhouse gas emissions come from man-made sources, including fossil fuels, methane, agricultural uses, industrial uses, so we are working hard to change that,” Malpass said.

Malpass has long faced criticism from climate advocates, who have renewed appeals to President Joe Biden to replace him. His remarks at a climate event hosted by the New York Times on Tuesday also reignited concerns about the bank’s lack of a deadline to stop financing fossil fuels. Read more

Speaking on stage during a climate finance panel, Malpass was asked several times if he believed “the artificial combustion of fossil fuels is rapidly and dangerously warming the planet.” He tried to dodge the question before saying, “I don’t even know. I’m not a scientist.”

The president of the United States, the largest shareholder of the World Bank, traditionally appoints the presidents of the World Bank, subject to confirmation by the bank’s board of directors. Former President Donald Trump appointed Malpass for a five-year term in 2019.

Biden, in New York for the UN General Assembly, did not respond when reporters asked him if he trusted Malpass. The White House did not comment on the controversy.

Sources following the matter said the Biden administration had so far not wanted to remove Malpass before his term expired in early 2024, but that his comments this week could change that calculation, despite his efforts to ” clarify “his views.

In a note to World Bank staff, seen by Reuters, Malpass said 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 climate crisis “.

He added: “Anything seen in a different light is incorrect and deplorable.”

Activists and former climate advocates fear the Bank falls short of climate action. Last year, more than 70 non-governmental organizations jointly requested the replacement of Malpass, citing a lack of action.

The World Bank has not invested in coal since 2010, a spokesperson said, and its board decided in 2013 to limit the financing of coal-fired power plants. In 2019, the Bank stopped financing its oil and gas upstream operations.

But so far it has resisted pressure from European council members and climate activists to completely eliminate fossil fuel financing.

In January last year, the Bank’s board approved a $ 620 million investment in a multibillion-dollar liquefied natural gas project in Mozambique, prompting criticism from climate activists.

Asked for comment on Tuesday’s Malpass remarks, a spokesperson for Canadian Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said the World Bank plays a crucial role in leading action against climate change.

“(The) leadership of the World Bank must fully support this global initiative,” said spokesperson, Adrienne Vaupshas.

US lawmaker Maxine Waters, head of the House of Representatives financial services committee, said Malpass’s comments question the World Bank’s commitment to tackling climate change.

This, “in turn, threatens the Bank’s importance in every other area, including its mission to alleviate poverty and promote sustainable growth,” Waters said.

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Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Rami Ayyub; Additional reports by Steve Holland in New York and Steve Scherer in Ottawa; Editing by Heather Timmons and Lisa Shumaker

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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