A lot of countries have coal miners that are dependent on coal, and yet the world knows that there needs to be a way to a better future on that. — David Malpass, the World Bank president
A lot of countries have coal miners that are dependent on coal, and yet the world knows that there needs to be a way to a better future on that. — David Malpass, the World Bank president
Out of Trump’s Shadow, World Bank President Embraces Climate Fight
At a panel discussion this past week, David Malpass, the World Bank president, described climate change as an “immense” issue for the globe and talked about the need for nations to transition away from coal.

“A lot of countries have coal miners that are dependent on coal, and yet the world knows that there needs to be a way to a better future on that,” Mr. Malpass said during a conversation with Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen and Kristalina Georgieva, the head of the International Monetary Fund, at the annual spring meetings of the I.M.F. and the World Bank.

Such a comment from Mr. Malpass, who was selected for the job by former President Donald J. Trump, would have been startling just a year or two ago. These days, with the Biden administration seeing climate change as an existential threat, Mr. Malpass has refashioned himself as an environmentalist, giving speeches about “green growth” and a net-zero carbon future.

The transformation reflects the changing political winds in Washington — one that could have important consequences if the World Bank can resume its central role in the fight against climate change, which stalled during the Trump years.


World Bank officials were worried when Mr. Malpass, a former senior Treasury Department official, was selected in 2019 for a five-year term. Mr. Trump once donned a hard hat and promised to bring coal jobs roaring back to the United States. Mr. Malpass was viewed as a loyalist.

Coming from an administration that did not believe the science behind climate change put Mr. Malpass in an awkward position. While seeking support from World Bank donor countries for the role, he said he would maintain the bank’s climate commitments, but he treaded carefully when discussing the causes of global warming. In public comments early in the job, Mr. Malpass focused on the global economy and debt transparency, frustrating the bank’s climate experts, who thought he was overlooking the environment, people familiar with the matter said.

“We were a little bit nervous about what we were getting,” said Daniel Sellen, chairman of the World Bank’s staff association. “Staff had quite a bit of trepidation about who the Trump administration would nominate to this role.”

Mr. Trump loathed multilateral institutions and took pleasure in installing leaders to agencies that they could deconstruct. He tapped Mr. Malpass at the encouragement of his Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, a pragmatist who saw Mr. Malpass as a safe selection who could steer the bank back toward its original mission of fighting poverty.

But out of Mr. Trump’s shadow, and with President Biden making combating climate change a top priority, Mr. Malpass has changed his tone.

These days, he tends to pepper his speeches and conversations with bank officials with concern about the environment. It remains a core issue for the World Bank even as it races to help developing countries cope with the coronavirus pandemic and deploy vaccines. And now that the United States, the World Bank’s largest donor, is rolling out more plans to curb emissions and assess climate change’s risks to the financial system, Mr. Malpass must ensure that the bank is keeping pace.

... Scott Morris, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, a Washington think tank, said it was unfortunate that the World Bank appeared to be leaving the door open for funding fossil fuel projects. He suggested that Mr. Malpass still had yet to lay out a clear strategic vision for the bank, but credited him for embracing climate change.

“It is remarkable to compare his statements today with his positions as a Treasury official in the Trump administration two years ago, when the official position was to strike the word ‘climate’ from any multilateral institution’s documents,” Mr. Morris said. “By that standard, he’s made a remarkable evolution toward being a climate leader.”

He added: “But it is a question of compared to what, and is he up to the task of being the leader of this critical institution for climate finance?”
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/09/us/politics/david-malpass-world-bank-climate.html