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Separating climate change and inequality won't work, says Biden's World Bank nominee

Ajay Banga, who the Biden administration has chosen to lead the World Bank, speaks in London in March.
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Ajay Banga, who the Biden administration has chosen to lead the World Bank, speaks in London in March.

President Biden's nominee to lead the World Bank says the twin global challenges of climate change and inequality need to be addressed simultaneously and cannot be separated.

Ajay Banga, the former CEO of Mastercard, tells Morning Edition's Michel Martin that it will take the combined action of all stakeholders, from countries to the multilateral development banking system to the private sector to make a difference, particularly when it comes to climate change.

"We don't have the time to play in silos," he says.

Banga, who is 63, says the World Bank, which oversees billions of dollars in funding for developing countries, will have to forge new partnerships to provide the resources necessary to tackle today's challenges.

"The scale of these challenges require trillions, not billions," he says.

The successful Indian-American businessman is the only candidate for the president position at the multilateral institution.

His nomination will need to be confirmed by the bank's board.

The interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Interview highlights

On why he wants the job

The World Bank and institutions like it are among the few that can tackle long term money, long term thinking aimed at fighting inequality. We're also aimed at fighting the intertwined challenge of climate change. I always thought this, but I never dreamt I would actually get a chance to do this job.

On what he brings to the table

I've shown over the course of my career that I can manage complex global organizations for change, for a new direction, for a new time. The World Bank needs to evolve for that change. And partnerships are a very important part that will be required for the World Bank. Partnerships with MDB's [Multilateral Development Banks], partnerships with government, but most interestingly, partnerships with the private sector. Because the scale of these challenges require trillions, not billions.

On the link between climate change and poverty

I honestly don't think we can unwind the two challenges of development and climate and segregate them. You know, if you're a farmer in Kenya where they haven't had rains for four years, it very quickly becomes from two crops to one crop in a year. That leads to them then getting rid of their cattle that give them income from milk and dairy, that then leads to them laying off the laborer they hired and bringing that girl child out of school, or the boy children out of school to help them on the farm. That is a complete reversal of the development agenda, and it's intertwined with climate.

On whether China is competing with the World Bank

I don't think we should view ourselves as competitors with any of the multilateral banks or countries. All countries have bilateral aid systems in addition to helping with the multilateral development banking system. And I think we need all shoulders at the wheel, including the private sector, if we're going to make a difference with a sense of urgency, particularly in climate, where 2030 is seven years away and 2050 with the Paris Accords is 27 years away. We don't have the time to play in silos.If young people have good quality of life, health, education, clean air, clean water, the things you and I take for granted. If they get that and also get jobs when they're eligible for jobs. Then young people, their optimism, their future transforms countries.

Miranda Kennedy edited this digital story. contributed to this story

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Ziad Buchh is a producer for NPR's Morning Edition and Up First. In addition to producing and directing the broadcast, he has also contributed to the show's sports, tech and video game coverage. He's produced and reported from all over the country, including a Trump rally, and from the temporary home of Ukrainian refugees.