Gore calls for World Bank leadership shake-up on climate concern

Activists have called on the World Bank, as well as other international financial institutions, to more aggressively support low- and zero-carbon projects worldwide. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK - Former US vice-president Al Gore on Tuesday called for an overhaul of the World Bank's leadership, lamenting that the institution is not doing enough to finance clean-energy projects in poor nations.

"We have to take the top layers of risk off the access to capital in these developing countries," Mr Gore said at a climate event 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."

"We need to get rid of that leadership" and "put new leadership in", he said, explicitly calling on President Joe Biden to make the change.

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

As the World Bank's biggest shareholder, the United States has considerable influence over its operations and traditionally appoints its president.

Earlier this year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) - with the support of the US - replaced a Trump appointee who was serving as its No. 2 official.

World Bank president David Malpass dismissed criticism of the organisation's climate work, calling it "unfounded", and took a swipe at Mr Gore: "He may present as a climate person. I don't know what impact that's having."

Speaking at the same event in New York, Mr Malpass cited "super strong US government support across the board on the initiatives that we are taking", and emphasised the institution's pivot away from supporting coal.

Current efforts aim to define and target the projects that will yield a big impact, he said.

In an e-mailed statement, the World Bank said it "is the largest multilateral funder of climate investments in developing countries".

"Under the leadership of David Malpass, the World Bank Group doubled its climate finance, published an ambitious Climate Change Action Plan and initiated country level diagnostics to support countries' climate and development goals," the bank said.

Pressed several times whether he accepted the science that man-made emissions from the burning of fossil fuels are dangerously warming the planet, Mr Malpass said: "I don't know. I'm not a scientist."

Nevertheless, environmental activists have called on the World Bank, the IMF and other international financial institutions to more aggressively support low- and zero-carbon projects worldwide, particularly in developing nations set to generate the vast majority of new greenhouse gas emissions.

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

Mr Gore spoke roughly six weeks before international climate negotiations in Egypt and in the wake of a series of climate-related disasters, including devastating floods that killed more than 1,500 people in Pakistan. BLOOMBERG

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