Biden Nominates Businessman With Climate Experience to Run World Bank
After the current head of the World Bank stepped down early following accusations of climate denial, it seems the U.S. wants to make sure its next leader is ready to face the climate crisis with eyes open.
President Joe Biden announced Thursday that the U.S. was nominating business leader Ajay Banga for the role, partly based on his experience leading private-public partnerships to address climate change.
“Ajay is uniquely equipped to lead the World Bank at this critical moment in history. He has spent more than three decades building and managing successful, global companies that create jobs and bring investment to developing economies, and guiding organizations through periods of fundamental change. He has a proven track record managing people and systems, and partnering with global leaders around the world to deliver results,” Biden said in a statement. “He also has critical experience mobilizing public-private resources to tackle the most urgent challenges of our time, including climate change.”
Banga, who is 63, was born in India and is now a U.S. citizen, according to Reuters. He was CEO of Mastercard for 12 years before retiring in 2021. He now serves as vice chair of private equity firm General Atlantic, which has invested more than $800 million in solar power, sustainable agriculture and charging stations for electric vehicles, administration officials told Reuters. Further, he advises the firm’s BeyondNetZero fund, according to Climate Home News.
Despite its name, the president of the World Bank is normally nominated by the U.S. Its previous president, David Malpass, was appointed by former President Donald Trump. Earlier this month, Malpass said he would step down in June, around a year before his normal term would have ended, as Climate Home News reported at the time. Malpass had faced criticism following remarks he made in September 2022, when he responded to questions about the climate crisis with the answer, “I’m not a scientist.”
The World Bank itself is under pressure to reform in order to take the climate crisis into account. Barbados’s Prime Minister Mia Mottley has been leading the charge with something called the Bridgetown agenda, which calls upon the bank to make more money available for climate finance. It has been backed by the U.S., Germany and India as well as all governments attending last year’s COP27 climate conference.
There was a mixed response to Banga’s nomination from advocacy groups.
“Banga will be a fresh pair of hands at the wheel of what we hope will be a greener, bigger, transformational and reformed World Bank capable of leading a global response to global challenges,” climate think tank E3G public banks lead Sonia Dunlop said, as Climate Home News reported.
But Revolving Door Project leader Jeff Hauser called on Biden to walk back the nomination based on concerns about Banga’s exclusively private sector background. (He has also served on the boards of Kraft Foods and Dow, according to the White House.)
“Nothing in Banga’s resume inspires confidence that he will turn the World Bank away from a path of neocolonialism and predation by Global North corporations upon Global South countries,” Hauser said in a statement. “[U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Janet ] Yellen pledged that the Administration’s nominee would ‘build on the Bank’s longstanding work to fight extreme poverty, [and] promote shared prosperity.’ But neither private equity, nor Mastercard, nor Citigroup, nor PepsiCo, nor Nestlé, nor Dow promote shared prosperity. They all do vastly more to exacerbate inequality than to fight it.”
The World Bank will take nominations for the top spot from member countries until March 29, according to Reuters. Banga’s is the only nomination to be made public so far. However, Germany’s world bank governor Svenja Schulze tweeted that the next president should be a woman, something that has never happened before.
“The World Bank needs to become the frontrunner in fighting poverty and global crises such as #climatechange, #biodiversity loss & #pandemics. And it is definitely time for a woman to lead the World Bank,” she said.
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