President Biden should work to oust the head of the World Bank, former Vice President Al Gore said Tuesday, calling him a “climate denier” at an event coinciding with the United Nations General Assembly.
Hours later, David Malpass, the development bank’s president, defended his climate record but refused to say directly whether he accepted the scientific consensus that burning fossil fuels is dangerously warming the planet.
Mr. Malpass called Mr. Gore’s remarks “very strange,” noting that he was not a scientist himself when he declined to answer questions about whether he accepted climate science.
“What we need to do is move forward with impactful projects,” said Mr. Bad pass.
Both men were part of separate panel discussions on climate change event organized by The New York Times.
Mr. Gore said that Mr. Malpass, who was nominated to lead the World Bank by former President Donald J. Trump in 2019, had been unable to improve access to finance for developing countries to undertake climate projects, a concern he has expressed Before.
“Since almost 90 percent of future increased emissions will come from developing countries, we need to remove the top layers of risk from access to capital in these developing countries,” he said. “That is the task of the World Bank.”
The World Bank and its smaller, regional counterparts have been repeatedly called to action by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, including in his opening speech at the General Assembly on Tuesday. “Major economies are their shareholders and have to make it happen,” he said.
Malpass defended the World Bank’s performance, citing Climate Change Action Plan started in Glasgow last year. He said the bank had earmarked $31.7 billion for climate finance, half of it for projects to adapt to extreme weather events and other climate change issues critical to developing countries.
“The Bank has been a world leader in focusing attention on resilience, on adaptation and change,” he said.
In another panel at the same event, John Kerry, the US special envoy for climate change, declined to comment on whether the Biden administration had confidence in Mr. Malpass’ leadership and said, “it’s the president’s decision.”
But Mr. Kerry said he and others in the administration have been pushing for a broader rethinking of the global approach to climate change and other issues that would allow entities like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to act more aggressively.
“We need to have major reforms, major restructuring” of multilateral development banks, Mr. Kerry. “It’s up to us to pull people together and get that reform, and there’s a lot of discussion about us doing that right now.”
The presidency of the World Bank has been held by a citizen of the United States, its largest shareholder, since the bank was founded after World War II. Mr. Malpass’s term of office runs until 2024, and Mr. Biden would not be able to remove him early, even if he could pressure Mr. Malpass to resign or work with other shareholders to get the board to remove him.