David Malpass' no good, very bad weekSeptember 23, 2022
Presented by Natural Allies for a Clean Energy Future
WORLD BANK BOMBSHELL — Will World Bank President David Malpass keep his job?
Malpass shocked the climate world this week by reverting to the "I'm not a scientist" shibboleth when pressed by a New York Times reporter about his stance on human-caused climate change — during Climate Week NYC, no less.
Sure, he's a Trump guy. But really? What are we all doing here if one of the top arbiters of the Western world's post-war economic order doesn't think climate change is a thing?
Malpass quickly backtracked, but not before the Nation reported that U.S. special envoy for climate John Kerry was agitating for "major restructuring" at the bank.
The previous take on Malpass was that he had successfully rehabilitated himself as an advocate of green growth. He called for stronger ESG frameworks in a speech in China in June, for example.
The knock is that the World Bank hasn't been that aggressive in backing away from fossil fuel financing, as Corbin Hiar, Avery Ellfeldt and Sara Schonhardt report for POLITICO's E&E News.
One example: The bank reported recently that it invested $31.7 billion in climate change programs in 2022. That’s more than a third of its portfolio, and helps meet its goal of ensuring that 35 percent of its financing between 2020 and 2025 will support direct climate action.
But the target is lower than those set by the European Investment Bank and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, both of which are shooting for 50 percent green finance.
POLITICO's Ryan Heath asked Malpass this morning if World Bank member countries were asking him to resign. He said no and said he "really wasn't prepared and didn't do my best job in answering" whether he supports the concept of human-caused warming.
"It's clear that greenhouse gas emissions from human activity are adding to — are causing — climate change," he said. "And so the task for us, for the world, is to pull together the projects and the funding that actually has an impact."
All this said, perhaps it is a sign of progress that whether a person believes in climate change isn't a question one asks in polite company anymore (and props to NYT's David Gelles for asking it.)
PLEDGES 'R' US — Before Malpass set off his stink bomb, we were sifting through Climate Week-related corporate commitments and analyses.
Here are a few that caught our eye (pro tip for flacks: If you spread this news out over the course of the year, you'll probably get more coverage):
- Amazon.com Inc. said it would buy enough "electrofuels" (made out of CO2 and hydrogen) to replace 5 million miles' worth of diesel in its delivery trucks in Southern California.
- Ikea of Sweden AB, Unilever PLC, JSW Steel Ltd, AP Moller-Maersk A/S and GeoPost/DPDgroup said they would "transition" to zero-emission medium and heavy-duty vehicles in OECD markets, China and India by 2040.
- Rockefeller Asset Management, 3M Co., Nestle SA, PepsiCo Inc., Walmart Inc., Unilever and Ikea were among 85 companies signing onto The Business Coalition for a Global Plastics Treaty.
- Seventh Generation Inc. declared the corporate social responsibility report "dead" with the release of its "climate fingerprints" report, which measures not only a company's actual emissions, but the impact of its ancillary services, including banking, marketing and insurance.
- Voluntary carbon market finance firm Climate Impact Partners put out a study that found 42 percent of Fortune Global 500 companies are committed to some kind of meaningful climate progress by 2030, while 37 percent haven't yet done anything significant.
We asked one of our favorite corporate sustainability watchdogs for his take. He liked the Seventh Generation report for its focus on the role of policy and of corporate influence on policy. Most of the other corporate announcements, not so much.
"The lack of mention of companies' role in influencing public policy in almost all of these announcements is striking," said Bill Weihl, founder and executive director of the nonprofit ClimateVoice, which pushes companies to engage on policy and noted that most took a back seat on the Inflation Reduction Act. "I hope they will continue their amazing work in their own operations, and step up to help pass bold climate policies everywhere they operate."
MANCHIN IN THE MIDDLE — Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) finally unveiled his environmental permitting reform bill on Wednesday. One immediate takeaway: The transition to a clean energy economy is all about tradeoffs.
It would boost transmission, which is essential to building more wind and solar power, but also boost fossil fuels by speeding up approval of offshore oil leases and the Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to Virginia and North Carolina.
Will it be a net environmental benefit? Unclear.
“It’s hard to know what would happen or not happen as a result of this deal,” said Peter Erickson, a researcher at the Stockholm Environment Institute. “There is so much uncertainty.”
Read more from Benjamin Storrow of POLITICO's E&E News here.
Josh Siegel has the latest on whether Manchin can thread the needle politically. He's alienated some Republicans and some Democrats, so...maybe!
Meanwhile, the Senate ratified its first international climate treaty in three decades on Wednesday by approving an agreement that will phase down refrigerant chemicals that are among the most potent climate pollutants. Alex Guillén has the details.
HEARD AT DREAMFORCE: Software giant Salesforce made its conference in San Francisco this week into a confab for the West Coast sustainability set.
Jane Goodall cited urbanization, virtual reality and materialism as factors behind humans feeling separate from nature: "That has given people a sense...that making money now is more important than protecting the environment."
Al Gore, delivering his standard Al Gore presentation and not repeating his call to get rid of Malpass: "The oil and gas industry has tried to give the impression, 'We got this. We're working on algae...carbon capture and sequestration.' Ninety-six percent [of their spending] is still going to develop more and more fossil fuels."
Alex Honnold took a dig at incumbent utilities while touting his solar project in Detroit: "Does anybody want to send their money to a utility?... Sometimes it's nice to just stick it to the man a little bit."
Larry Summers on how he predicted Biden's Covid-relief package would cause inflation: "I always try to separate what I see and forecast from what I want and hope for. And I think that is central to seeing the world clearly. There's no such thing as a bad fact."
Happy Friday! Team Sustainability is editor Greg Mott, deputy editor Debra Kahn, and reporter Jordan Wolman. Reach us at [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected].
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— The next frontier for climate is parking reform. California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) just signed a bill eliminating parking requirements for buildings near transit.