The Heat Is Online

Wolfowitz Guts Bank's Estimate of Climate Impacts

Deputy's woes stir World Bank turmoil

 

Financial Times, April 25, 2007

 

One of Paul Wolfowitz's two handpicked deputies, Juan José Daboub, tried to water down references to climate change in one of the World Bank's main environmental strategy papers, the bank's chief scientist has told the Financial Times.

Mr. Daboub, a conservative former finance minister from El Salvador, was brought into the bank by Mr. Wolfowitz. He is already under fire for allegedly trying to take out references to family planning in the bank's Madagascar country assistance strategy and reduce its prominence in its new health sector strategy.

The new claim will add to the disarray at the highest ranks of the bank. Mr. Wolf-owitz's other deputy, Graeme Wheeler, told the bank president to resign at a meeting of top management last week.

Robert Watson, the chief scientist, said Mr. Daboub tried to dilute references to climate change in the Clean Energy Investment Framework, a key strategy paper presented to the bank's shareholder governments at its annual meeting in Singapore last September.

"He tried to water it down. He tried to take out references to climate change," Mr. Watson said. Two other officials confirmed this account.

The chief scientist said Mr. Daboub, who oversees the sustainable development division of the bank, tried to take out some references to climate change completely and, in other cases, replaced it with the phrases "climate risk" and "climate variability", which convey greater uncertainty over the human impact on climate.

Mr. Watson said: "My inference was that the words -'climate change' to him implied human-induced -climate change and he still thought it was a theory and was not proved yet."

He said that went completely against established bank policy.

"We have always felt that climate change is a very serious environmental issue and very serious development issue," Mr. Watson said.

Mr. Watson is one of the world's leading climate change scientists, having been a top official at Nasa, an adviser to President Bill Clinton, and the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change from 1997 to 2002.

Mr. Watson said he and other top managers in his division "pushed back" and insisted on some references to -climate change in the paper. Mr. Daboub finally conceded sufficiently to make the final strategy paper credible.

"There was clearly less reference to climate change than there would have been, but it did not matter," Mr. Watson said. "The words 'climate change' and 'climate risk' were in enough places that it made the story totally convincing."

The chief scientist said the attempt to dilute references to climate change "came from Daboub's office and from Daboub hiMs.elf". He believes that Mr. Wolfowitz knew nothing about it.

Mr. Watson said Mr. Wolfowitz had given two "solid speeches" on climate change this year. Since then the bank's experts have been able to push ahead with their climate change strategy without interference from Mr. Daboub. However, at the time Mr. Daboub was trying to edit out references to climate change, Mr. Wolfowitz had not made any speeches on the subject.

A second bank official said: "I think he thought he was doing his master's bidding."

Mr. Daboub told the FT that the bank's staff "des-erve recognition for their work, which includes trying to meet the concerns of a diverse range of stake-holders".

"I personally believe that climate change is a serious issue and I am pleased that the bank is playing an active role in addressing it."

The allegation follows a backlash against reports - supported by staff testimony - that the managing director had also tried to dilute references to family planning in bank documents. Mr. Daboub has written to other top bank managers insisting that these claiMs. are untrue, stating: "I am here to carry out the bank's policies, not my own.

"Regarding the Madagascar CAS [country assistance strategy], none of the editorial changes that were made at my direction changed, or intended to change, the Bank Group's programme in the area of family planning," he wrote.

"Family planning continues to feature in the CAS."

However, on April 19, -direc-tors representing European shareholder governments sent a memorandum to Joy Phumaphi, the newly arrived vice-president for human development, saying they had "major concerns" on the health strategy for the programme submitted to them after editing by Mr. Daboub's office.

The document "makes virtually no reference to sexual and reproductive health on a strategic level", the directors said.

"This is surprising, considering that the bank has committed almost $2bn (¬1.5bn, £1bn) to sexual and reproductive health over the past 10 years."

Ms. Phumaphi apparently took these concerns very seriously and has submitted a new draft of the document, with much more extensive references to family planning, to the board.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007