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WASHINGTON: The president of the World Bank (WB), David Malpass, has come under fire since the start of the week, accused of being a “climate skeptic”, a charge he tried to respond to on Friday without calming calls for his departure.

It all started when former US Vice President Al Gore said on Monday that Malpass was a “climate skeptic” and had failed to improve funding for climate projects in developing countries.

Invited the next day to address these allegations at a roundtable hosted by the New York Times, the UN president three times refused to say whether he acknowledged the role of fossil fuels in global warming.

“I’m not a scientist,” he finally declared, prodded by the public, preferring to highlight the “tremendous efforts” made by the WB to help finance global warming.

His response outraged specialist NGOs, who called for his resignation.

“We condemn the comments made by the president” of BM, White House spokeswoman Karin Jean-Pierre said Friday, but recalled that “replacing him requires the consent of the majority of shareholders, you have to keep that in mind.”

“I’m not going to resign and I haven’t considered it,” Mr. Malpas said Friday when asked by Politico. According to him, “none” of the member states of the international financial institution have asked for his resignation.

He assured that he was not a climate skeptic, pointing out that “greenhouse gases of human origin are the cause of global warming”. “And our mission is to introduce projects and funding that have an impact” to reduce emissions, he added.

A statement he had already made the previous day, on the CNN International channel, saying that “it is obvious that greenhouse gas emissions are of human origin, in particular due to the use of fossil fuels”. “And we’re working to change that,” he said.

“I’m not a climate sceptic,” he insisted, explaining that he was “confused” and not “always good when I have to answer questions.”

But his excuses did not assuage critics: In turn, a group of climate scientists called on Friday for Mr. Malpass to leave.

Especially as the World Bank president defends his institution’s record on fighting global warming, some criticize him for not doing enough.

“I’m worried about the World Bank,” economist Joseph Stiglitz, himself a former WB chief economist and now highly critical of the institution, said on Monday. the operations leadership the world needs.”

“We expect the World Bank to be an international driving force in terms of climate ambitions,” insisted Ms. Jean-Pierre.

A series of scandals in the IMF and the World Bank

Mr. Malpas’ political profile is no stranger to the attention he receives on climate issues. A Republican and undersecretary of the Treasury for international economic relations under former US President Donald Trump, he was appointed by the latter in 2019 to head the UN Security Council to take over from fellow countryman Jim Yong Kim. , resigned.

According to a pre-established method of appointment, the US does choose the president of the WB, while Europe decides on the management of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The share of countries in the capital of the two institutions is the basis of this distribution, with the United States and the entire European Union being the two main shareholders.

International economic institutions have faced a series of scandals targeting their respective leaders, sometimes for reasons related to past activities, thus raising the question of this mode of appointment.

The latest allegations date back to October 2021 and relate to IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, who is suspected of lobbying in favor of China in a ranking when she was WB Managing Director.

His two French predecessors, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and then Christine Lagarde, were in turn involved in judicial investigations and convictions, respectively, for sexual assault in New York in 2012 and in the context of the arbitration case between Crédit Lyonnais and Bernard Tapie in France.

Mr Malpass’s predecessor, Mr Kim, faced criticism after awarding bonuses to several senior executives in 2014 before resigning in 2019 to join an investment firm.

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