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The World Bank Must Change Course

The World Bank does a lot of important and effective work, especially in health and education, but its climate policies are poorly considered. The Bank’s new president, David Malpass, should refocus the institution on its core mission of eradicating poverty – including the energy poverty that wrecks so many lives.

BRUSSELS – Critics have called new World Bank president David Malpass an arsonist in charge of a fire department, because of past comments he made on Bank salaries and loans to China. But it’s far more important to focus on improving progress toward the World Bank’s core mission of ending extreme poverty.

In its most recent fiscal year, the Bank dished out nearly $67 billion in financing, investments, and guarantees. But under the “new course” set by its previous president, Jim Yong Kim, in 2016, the Bank aims to direct more than a quarter of its funding toward climate change. Moreover, thanks to Kim, the Bank insists that every single dollar it spends must take account of climate change, and it has ended financial support for coal-fired power plants.

The argument for approaching development through the prism of climate change is that rising temperatures exacerbate challenges such as malaria and lack of access to education. Though this is true, almost all problems impact all others. An increase in malaria makes children more susceptible to hunger; poor nutrition and a lack of sanitation worsen educational performance; missing school leads to greater poverty; and so on.

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