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World Bank President David Malpass speaks at the Concordia Annual Summit on September 19, 2022 in New York City.

World Bank President David Malpass speaks at the Concordia Annual Summit on September 19, 2022 in New York City. (Photo: Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Concordia Summit)

Al Gore Calls It 'Ridiculous' to Have 'Climate Denier' Lead the World Bank

"When every night on the TV news is like a nature hike through the Book of Revelation, that builds demands for meaningful action," said the former vice president.

Kenny Stancil

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore called the head of the World Bank a "climate denier" on Tuesday and urged President Joe Biden to take steps to replace him with someone who will do more to finance clean energy projects in low-income nations.

"Since almost 90% of the increased emissions going forward are coming from developing countries, we have to take the top layers of risk off the access to capital in these developing countries," Gore said at a climate policy summit hosted by the New York Times.

"That's the job of the World Bank—to coordinate the other multilateral development banks—and they're simply not doing it," said Gore.

"We need to get rid of that leadership" and "put new leadership in," Gore continued, calling on Biden to do everything in his power to initiate such a change.

It "is ridiculous to have a climate denier the head of the World Bank," he added.

Speaking on a separate panel hours later at the same event, World Bank President David Malpass defended the institution's approach to climate finance, calling Gore's criticism "very odd."

But Malpass, nominated to lead the World Bank in 2019 by then-U.S. President Donald Trump, proceeded to validate Gore's charge of climate denialism.

Pressed multiple times to say whether he accepts the scientific consensus that burning fossil fuels produces the planet-heating emissions now endangering life on Earth, Malpass refused, declaring: "I don't know. I'm not a scientist."

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has repeatedly implored the World Bank and its regional counterparts to increase and improve access to financing to help impoverished and vulnerable countries meet the U.N.'s Sustainable Development Goals and adapt to climate shocks, including during his opening remarks at the General Assembly on Tuesday.

"Multilateral development banks must step up and deliver," said Guterres. "Major economies are their shareholders and must make it happen."

In an emailed statement, the World Bank told Bloomberg that it "is the largest multilateral funder of climate investments in developing countries."

According to Malpass, the World Bank allocated $31.7 billion to climate finance in 2021, half of it to strengthen adaptation to extreme weather events. That's a small fraction of the trillions of dollars in green investment the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says is needed annually to secure a habitable planet.

Currently, there is "unequal access to private capital," with state-owned enterprises often supporting fossil fuel projects, Gore said. "That has to be fixed."

As the Times reported:

In another panel at the same event, John Kerry, the U.S. special envoy for climate change, declined to comment on whether the Biden administration had confidence in Mr. Malpass' leadership, saying, "that's the president's decision."

But Mr. Kerry said he and others in the administration have been pushing for a broader rethinking of the global approach to climate change and other issues that would allow entities like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to act more aggressively.

"We need to have major reform, major restructuring" of multilateral development banks, Mr. Kerry said. "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."

"The presidency of the World Bank has been held by a citizen of the United States, its largest shareholder, since the bank was founded after World War II," the newspaper noted. "Mr. Malpass' term runs until 2024 and Mr. Biden wouldn't be able to remove him early, although he could pressure Mr. Malpass to resign or work with other shareholders to get the board of directors to remove him."

As Bloomberg explained, being the World Bank's biggest shareholder gives the U.S. "considerable influence over its operations" as well as those of other global financial institutions. For instance, "earlier this year, the International Monetary Fund—with the support of the U.S.—replaced a Trump appointee who was serving as its No. 2 official."

Gore's Tuesday comments come roughly six weeks before the start of the U.N.'s COP 27 climate conference in Egypt and in the wake of multiple climate change-driven disasters, including historic droughts in China and Europe as well as catastrophic floods in Pakistan that have killed more than 1,500 people to date.

"When every night on the TV news is like a nature hike through the Book of Revelation, that builds demands for meaningful action," Gore said in a recent interview. "And these events aren't representative of a so-called random walk, they're getting worse every single year in the last decade."

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