Days after former Vice President Al Gore called upon President Joe Biden to remove David Malpass as president of the World Bank, one report says that process could be in the works.
Malpass was appointed in 2019 to a five-year term after being nominated by former President Donald Trump to lead the bank, which has as its mission supporting developing nations.
On Tuesday, Gore called Malpass a “climate denier” during a climate change event, according to The New York Times.
The Times report said Malpass called the remark “very odd” and quoted him as saying, “What we need to do is move forward with impactful projects.”
But that was not all he said, according to Reuters. Malpass was asked if he believed that burning fossil fuels was making the planet more dangerous.
“I don’t even know. I’m not a scientist,” Malpass replied.
Although protocol calls for the head of the World Bank to be an American, the selection process is indirect, with the bank’s board approving the choice of president.
“It is challenging for the Biden administration to simply say this isn’t our guy, we need to remove him. There’s not much precedent for that,” Scott Morris, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, told The New York Times.
The Times report portrayed the Biden administration as split “with some officials wanting President Biden to seek his resignation or to try to orchestrate his removal, and others not wanting to start a new tradition that would mean World Bank leaders are replaced when the U.S. presidency changes hands.”
The Times report said that the Biden White House could use the incident to pressure Malpass to resign.
Malpass, meanwhile, has tried to appease his critics. The Times cited a memo to staff offering an answer to the question he did not answer on Tuesday.
In the memo he wrote, “it’s clear that greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are causing climate change, and that the sharp increase in the use of coal, diesel, and heavy fuel oil in both advanced economies and developing countries is creating another wave of the climate crisis.”
“It’s clear that greenhouse gas emissions are coming from man-made sources, including fossil fuels. I’m not a denier,” he wrote.
That same tone came through in a Thursday interview with CNN.
When asked about Gore’s allegation, Malpass replied, “I don’t know the political motivations behind that. It’s clear that greenhouse gas emissions are coming from manmade sources, including fossil fuels, methane, agricultural uses and industrial uses. And so we’re working hard to change that.”
“I’m not a denier,” he said, adding that he is “not always good at conveying” what he wants to say.
Bur critics appeared to be unrelenting,
“There is no place at the top of the World Bank for a climate denier,” Jules Kortenhorst, chief executive of the Rocky Mountain Institute told the Times. “David Malpass needs to step down. The World Bank deserves a passionate leader who fully appreciates the threat that climate change poses to reducing poverty, improving living standards and sustainable growth.”
“At this point it’s clear he’s trying to hang on to his job after the diplomatic admonishment from the U.S. Treasury Department and other shareholders yesterday,” said Luísa Abbott Galvão, senior international policy campaigner with Friends of the Earth. “Malpass has been making climate-denying comments for over a decade. We cannot have a situation where a World Bank president is saying nice things publicly but working behind the scenes to block action, and that’s exactly what we’ve seen in his three years as World Bank president.”