On 15 February 2023, David Malpass, whose five-year term was set to run through April 2024, announced his intention to step down as President of the World Bank.
In 2022, Malpass refused to back climate science and was labelled a “climate denier” by former US Vice President Al Gore during a New York Times panel discussion. This prompted a call from civil society groups for a vote of no confidence in Malpass. With a climate denier at the helm, the World Bank Group has not responded to the climate emergency with the transparency, accountability, urgency or concessional finance required. The World Bank Group has continued to use more public money to finance fossil fuel projects than any other Multilateral Development Bank (MDB) – $930 million in 2022 alone, according to figures from Oil Change International.
Delaying tactics for Paris Alignment
This set the scene for a catalogue of delays in developing the World Bank Group’s Paris Agreement alignment methodologies for direct and indirect finance and policy operations. According to insider reports reviewed by the Financial Times, Malpass played a direct role in blocking the ambition of the joint MDB announcement on climate finance at COP26 in Glasgow. The climate adviser to the UN Secretary General noted that the World Bank is an “underperformer” on climate.
This lack of climate ambition has had a direct impact on the human rights, health and environment of the women, men and children who are already suffering the catastrophic impacts of climate change. Whoever leads the Bank next will need to champion the Paris Agreement alignment methodology that rules out all fossil fuels, including fossil gas and in favour of a truly just and equitable transition away from fossil fuels to sustainable renewable energy.
The World Bank Evolution Roadmap
With the World Bank Evolution Roadmap on the agenda, it’s time for real and transformative change that will drag the World Bank into the 21st Century. Among much-needed reforms, it’s time to ditch the “gentlemen’s agreement”, which ensures that the IMF managing director is a European and the World Bank president a US national. This practice is undemocratic, illegitimate, and rooted in neo-colonial principles.
The Evolution Roadmap should not only put Paris Agreement alignment at its heart, but also be a vehicle for rolling in a fair, open and transparent selection process for the new President who should genuinely champion climate justice. The Roadmap could lay to rest the historic colonial domination of the global North in decision-making at the World Bank Group.
16 February 2023