The Biden administration has considered ousting World Bank President David Malpass over concerns of his “weak” stance on climate change, Axios reported Friday, citing sources familiar with the matter.
One of his potential replacements: none other than the man who called Malpass a “climate denier” this week—former Vice President Al Gore.
In a statement, a spokeswoman for Gore denied he had any interest, saying, “VP Gore strongly believes that there needs to be new leadership at the World Bank, but has no intention of pursuing the role himself and would not accept it if offered.”
At a New York Times climate event on Tuesday, after Gore’s remark, Malpass was repeatedly asked by moderators if he believed in the scientific consensus that the burning of fossil fuels was warming the planet. He responded, saying, “I don’t even know. I’m not a scientist.”
The Times’ climate reporter who asked Malpass the question tweeted that he’d tried to give him the “opportunity to respond to Gore.”
Malpass’s answer generated massive backlash as climate change groups and activists demanded he be fired. Christiana Figueres, a leader on the issue of global climate change, chimed in with her concerns after Malpass’s comment.
“It’s simple. If you don’t understand the threat of #climatechange to developing countries you cannot lead the world’s top international development institution,” she tweeted.
The World Bank’s role is to reduce poverty by lending money to governments of developing countries to improve their economies and their standards of living.
It’s not the first time Malpass has come under fire for his position on climate change. Last year, over 70 groups sent a letter to World Bank governors and executive directors calling for Malpass to be replaced for “failing to take adequate action on climate change.” In that, they say, the World Bank has failed to help countries reduce their dependence on fossil fuels.
Gore has criticized Malpass previously. At a Financial Times conference last year, the publication reported, Gore said the World Bank was “missing in action” and “needs new leadership.”
It appears that the Biden administration also views Trump’s nominee with suspicion, Axios reported. Malpass’s latest comment may have provided it with the ammunition for his ouster.
“We expect the World Bank Group to be a global leader of climate ambition…We have [made]—and will continue to make—to make that expectation clear to World Bank leadership,” a Treasury spokesperson told Axios.
Malpass has already begun damage control. In an interview with CNN on Thursday, he backtracked, claiming that the burning of fossil fuels is behind the plant’s warming. In that interview, when asked if he was a “climate denier,” Malpass answered: “I’m not a denier.”
“I don’t always do the best job in answering the questions or hearing what the questions are,” he told CNN.
When asked specifically about Gore’s labeling him a climate denier, Malpass said: “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.”
Malpass also sent a message to World Bank staff, seen by Bloomberg, that read: “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. Anything seen in a different light is incorrect and regrettable.”
On Friday, Malpass told Politico’s Ryan Heath that he will not resign but recognizes his response as a “poorly chosen line,” which he apologizes for and says he regrets.
In its report, Axios said “Biden officials have gone as far as gaming out potential replacements” for Malpass. In addition to Gore, they listed former Secretary of State John Kerry, former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and Rockefeller Foundation president Raj Shah.
Update, Sept. 23, 2022: This article was updated after publication with statement from a spokeswoman for Al Gore.
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