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David Malpass, the embattled president of the World Bank, announced his intention Wednesday to step down by June, roughly a year before his term expires.
Mr. Malpass was appointed by President Donald J. Trump to preside over the World Bank, which lends billions of dollars to developing countries, during a period of intense global need fueled by crises ranging from the pandemic to climate change.
Last year, Mr. Malpass became the target of intense criticism from climate activists and Democratic politicians after he declined to say whether he accepted the overwhelming scientific consensus that fossil fuels were rapidly warming the planet.
The exchange, during a live interview at a New York Times event, prompted scientists, activists and U.S. senators to call for his resignation. At the United Nations climate talks in Egypt late last year, Mr. Malpass continued to face questions about his views on climate change, even after he tried to clarify his position.
On Wednesday, Mr. Malpass said he would step down by June 30, roughly a year before his term would have ended.
“It has been an enormous honor and privilege to serve as President of the world’s premier development institution alongside so many talented and exceptional people,” Mr. Malpass said in a statement. “ Having made much progress, and after a good deal of thought, I’ve decided to pursue new challenges. ”
Janet Yellen, the Treasury secretary, complimented Mr. Malpass. “While we all must continue to raise our collective ambitions in the fight against climate change, during President Malpass’s tenure the World Bank has made important recent advances in this area,” she said in a statement.
Environmental activists applauded. “We welcome the departure of a climate and development laggard as the head of a critical international finance institution,” said Jake Schmidt, a senior director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We need World Bank leadership committed to bold action to unleash more and better climate finance to meet the scale of the climate crisis and the needs of developing countries.”
Former vice president Al Gore, who had called Mr. Malpass a “climate denier” and campaigned for his removal, said in a statement that humanity “needs the head of the World Bank to fully recognize and creatively respond to the civilization-threatening danger posed by the climate crisis. I am very happy to hear that new leadership is coming. This must be the first step toward true reform that places the climate crisis at the center of the bank’s work.”