World Bank President David Malpass on Friday said none of the global development bank’s shareholders have asked him to resign despite a wave of criticism this week after he declined to say whether he accepts the scientific consensus on global warming.
Malpass addressed the concerns on Thursday in an interview with CNN International and in a separate note to staff, saying it was clear that human activity is fueling climate change and defending his record at the helm of the development bank.
On Friday, he told Politico it was “unfortunate” that he responded as he did during an event on Tuesday: “When asked, ‘Are you a climate denier?’ I should have said no. … I really wasn’t prepared and didn’t do my best job in answering that charge.”
Malpass, a Republican nominated by former President Donald Trump, said he was caught off guard by the question because “no one’s said that other than (former Democratic Vice President) Al Gore, and it was pretty much off topic.”
Malpass, whose five-year term is due to end in spring 2024, reiterated on Friday that he believed human activity caused climate change, while defending what he called the bank’s “forceful leadership” on climate change and its role as the leading financier of climate change projects.
Asked if any shareholder had asked him to resign over the issue, Malpass said, “No, none have.”
In fact, he said, shareholders had been strongly supportive of him and the work of the World Bank, citing “massive” support for its creation of a new pandemic response fund and the recent replenishment of the International Development Association facility for the world’s poorest countries.
Malpass has long faced criticism from climate advocates, who renewed calls on President Joe Biden to replace him. His remarks at a climate event hosted by the New York Times on Tuesday also rekindled concerns about the bank’s lack of a deadline to stop funding fossil fuels.
Speaking onstage during Tuesday’s panel on climate finance, Malpass was asked several times whether he believes the “manmade burning 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.”
“That wasn’t a good phrase for me to use,” Malpass said on Friday. “We have a lot of input from the global scientific community … We interact with scientists.”
The United States, the largest shareholder in the bank, on Wednesday said it expected the bank to be “a full partner” in fighting climate change, but stopped short of voicing more forceful criticism of Malpass.
The president of the United States traditionally nominates World Bank presidents, subject to confirmation by the bank’s board. Treasury declined comment when asked if it supported a second term for Malpass when his term ends in 2024.
A coalition of civil society groups on Wednesday called for the Bank to fire Malpass.
Activists and former climate advocates worry the World Bank is falling short on climate action. Last year, over 70 non-governmental organizations jointly called for Malpass to be replaced, citing a lack of action.