Mr. Malpass has ingratiated himself with World Bank staff with his steady, low-key approach and congenial manner. He has also benefited from low expectations. But with three years left to go in his term, some development experts want to see more.
Scott Morris, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, a Washington think tank, said it was unfortunate that the World Bank appeared to be leaving the door open for funding fossil fuel projects. He suggested that Mr. Malpass still had yet to lay out a clear strategic vision for the bank, but credited him for embracing climate change.
“It is remarkable to compare his statements today with his positions as a Treasury official in the Trump administration two years ago, when the official position was to strike the word ‘climate’ from any multilateral institution’s documents,” Mr. Morris said. “By that standard, he’s made a remarkable evolution toward being a climate leader.”
He added: “But it is a question of compared to what, and is he up to the task of being the leader of this critical institution for climate finance?”
The bank will accelerate its efforts in the coming months. Mr. Malpass, in a speech last month about “building a green, resilient and inclusive recovery,” said his team was integrating climate into all of the bank’s country strategies and would complete climate and development reports for 25 countries this year.
Mr. Malpass has more recently been working to curry favor with the Biden administration. He speaks regularly to Ms. Yellen and personally invited her to participate in the climate discussion this past week.
Asked what the transition from the Trump administration to the Biden administration had meant for the bank, Mr. Malpass answered carefully. He noted that under Mr. Trump, the United States had approved a capital increase for the bank. He said the new White House team was highly committed to the bank’s goals of reducing poverty, making food accessible and preparing countries for a changing climate.
“The Biden administration policies have been very supportive of that mission,” Mr. Malpass said.
Lisa Friedman contributed reporting.