Biden officials have considered trying to remove the head of the World Bank David Malpasswho took office during the Trump administration, because they believe he is weak on the climate, according to people familiar with the matter.
why does it matter: Administration officials are deeply concerned about Malpass’ not answering This week when asked if climate change is human-caused. His response provides ammunition for officials who want Biden to spend some political capital trying to impeach him.
- But officials know that replacing Malpass will be a messy process, and they are unsure how — or even if — the United States could orchestrate his ouster.
- Malpass was confirmed by the bank’s Board of Executive Directors, which is not controlled by the White House.
playing condition: The Biden administration had been looking suspiciously of Malpass, a Trump district, from the start. This suspicion has now been confirmed. It has been on fluffy ice for months.
- Malpass’ refusal to admit that fossil fuels are warming the planet has caused an international outcry, including Calls to resign.
- Malpass went to the damage control department on Thursday, emailed a clarification to staff and says on CNN: “Obviously greenhouse gas emissions come from man-made sources, including fossil fuels… I’m not a denier.”
Reality check: The fact that Biden made no change suggests that there was some internal resistance to Malpass’s ouster.
context: The Washington-based World Bank uses capital contributions from member states to provide loans to the developing world to help alleviate poverty and boost economic growth.
- In the past several years, the Bank has increasingly shifted its focus to financing projects that will reduce carbon emissions. Critics, including Gore, want the bank to do more about climate change.
Between the lines: Announcing the head of the World Bank could upset a delicate balance – the US traditionally chooses the head of the World Bank, while the European Union chooses the head of the International Monetary Fund.
- The presidency of the Bank lasts for five years. So often the president of the United States inherits bank heads from the other side.
- Malpass is a former Bear Stearns economist and Treasury official in the Trump administration. His term expired in 2024.
What we are watching: In the New York Times Climate event This week, former Vice President Al Gore called for Changing the World Bank, saying it was “ridiculous to have an atmosphere in denial about the World Bank’s president”.
- Some Biden officials have gone so far as to toy with potential replacements — including Gore and former Secretary of State John Kerry, now Biden’s climate envoy. Biden’s thinking is unknown.
- Kerry has been a vocal advocate of increasing the World Bank’s focus on climate. When asked at the Times event if management trusts Malpass, Kerry oblique: “I cannot comment on the situation of the individual – that is the decision of the president.”
- A Gore spokesperson told Axios: “VP Gore strongly believes there must be new leadership at the World Bank, but has no intention of pursuing the role himself and would not accept it if offered.”
Other possibilities for a Malpass job Including former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg and Raj Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation and former head of the US Agency for International Development.
The plot: The countries of the so-called “global south” were looking for an opportunity to get the top job of a candidate from Africa, Latin America, Asia or Oceania.
- Biden officials debated who might fit into this bill. Options include Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a Nigerian-American economist who now heads the World Trade Organization, and Minosh Shafik, an Egyptian-born British-American economist and director of the London School of Economics.
what are they saying: “We expect the World Bank Group to be a global leader in climate ambition…we have done it [made] A Treasury spokesperson told Axios: – and they will continue to provide – to clarify this expectation for the leadership of the World Bank.
- Mark Malloch Brown, president of the Open Society Foundation and a former World Bank official, said Malpass’s comments were “considered harmful, there is no doubt about it”.
- “It’s a big problem,” he said. “These institutions do not serve their leader’s agenda, but ultimately the owners of governments. Their clear priority is to combat climate change.”
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include a statement from former Vice President Spokesperson Al Gore.