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World Bank Chief Nominee Ajay Banga Is ‘Uniquely Equipped’ to Lead Climate Action, Biden Says

by Martina Igini Global Commons Feb 27th 20233 mins
World Bank Chief Nominee Ajay Banga Is ‘Uniquely Equipped’ to Lead Climate Action, Biden Says

The White House picked the private equity vice chairman and former corporate executive to be the next World Bank chief, crediting him with critical experience in tackling global challenges such as climate change.

The United States nominated former Mastercard CEO Alay Banga to be the next World Bank chief, citing his critical experience in tackling global challenges including climate change.   

In a statement released on Thursday, US President Joe Biden praised Banga’s achievements, describing him as being “uniquely equipped to lead the World Bank at this critical moment in history” and adding that “he has a proven track record managing people and systems, and partnering with global leaders around the world to deliver results.”

The nomination came just days after current president David Malpass announced he is stepping down a year early following accusations of climate denial as he refused to acknowledge that burning fossil fuels is the leading cause of global warming.

Banga, 63, an India-born and naturalised US citizen, launched successful fast food franchises including Pizza Hut and KFC, and led Citigroup’s Asia-Pacific business before becoming Mastercard’s CEO in 2009. 

While at Mastercard, Banga managed to triple revenues, increase net income sixfold and grow market capitalisation from $30 billion to over $300 billion, according to the Financial Times. But besides the financial success, he was often praised for his efforts in tackling the climate crisis. 

Under his leadership, Mastercard became one of the first companies to set net-zero emission targets under the Science Based Targets initiative. Banga also joined several bodies as climate adviser and became vice-chairman of General Atlantic’s climate-focused fund Beyond Net Zero in 2021. 

The World Bank is facing mounting pressure from climate leaders to put more emphasis on tackling climate change and alleviate the debt burden of the Global South, a significant hinder to the ability of developing countries – historically the least responsible for and most vulnerable to climate-fuelled disasters – to address the causes and consequences of global warming. According to a 2022 UN Development Program (UNDP) report, about 60% of low-income nations are at risk of “debt distress”, double the number seven years ago.

Banga’s nomination received a round of endorsements. 

John Kerry, the US special envoy on climate change, said nominating Benga as the next World Bank chief is “the right choice” as he “has proven his ability as a manager of large institutions and understands investment and the mobilisation of capital to power the green transition.” 

“[Banga] has the right leadership and management skills, experience living and working in emerging markets, and financial expertise to lead the World Bank at a critical moment in its history, deliver on its core development goals, and evolve the Bank to meet global challenges like climate change,” US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement, adding that she wanted to see the financial institution serve as a “force multiplier for good by setting the right agenda.”

While other countries could nominate candidates, the US – the Bank’s largest shareholder – traditionally picks its leader. If confirmed by the institution’s governing body in May, Banga would replace Trump-nominated Malpass, who is due to step down on June 30.

Featured image by World Economic Forum (Flickr)

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About the Author

Martina Igini

Martina is the Managing Editor at Earth.Org. She holds two BA degrees, in Translation/Interpreting Studies and Journalism, and a MA in International Development from the University of Vienna. After working at the United Nations Global Communication Department in Vienna, she joined a newspaper in Italy as a reporter before moving to Hong Kong in 2020. Her interests include sustainability and the role of public policy in environmental protection with a focus on developing countries.

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