"There has been an absolute sea change in the conversations we were having with our clients from just a few months ago," she said.
Environmentalists said they remain concerned that the bank continues to lend for coal projects, despite its growing embrace of renewable energy and building countries' resilience to weather disasters.
Two years ago, the World Bank funded a deeply controversial 4,800-megawatt coal plant in South Africa. Currently, it is paving the way for approving financing for a 600-megawatt coal plant in Kosovo using lignite, the dirtiest form of coal. Meanwhile, activists say, Pakistan and Mongolia are vying for coal aid to their energy-poor nations.
The World Bank board, meanwhile, shelved a proposed strategy that would eliminate coal loans to middle-income countries, and the issue of formally changing bank policies with regard to coal has not again been openly brought to the floor.
"The bank has made a compelling case that a hotter world will cause untold harm to the prosperity and well-being of millions of people in its client countries, and that acting now to limit warming makes great economic sense. But it hasn't said what the bank will do differently to rise to the challenge," said Steve Herz, a senior attorney with the Sierra Club.
Trying 'not to invest in coal'
"Clearly, new thinking is needed, and this will be a key test of President Kim's leadership," Herz said.
David Waskow, international climate policy director for Oxfam America, agreed. "Jim Kim is absolutely right that this report should shock us into action. There really is no alternative to urgent action, given the devastating consequences of climate change for food security, health and basic well-being."
But, he said, "Now the question for the World Bank is how it will ensure that all of its investments respond to the imperatives of the report -- its investments should be consistent with countries' efforts to adopt low-carbon pathways and build their resilience to climate impacts that are already wreaking havoc with poor people's lives."
Kim said the World Bank is "taking a hard look" at all of its work in light of climate change. But he also gave no indication that the worrisome trends outlined in the report will alter the World Bank's most controversial portfolio: lending for coal-fired power plants.
"We are involved in coal in very, very rare circumstances," he said. "Only in the most extreme circumstances do we ever get involved in coal."
He said the World Bank has doubled its lending for renewable energy and noted that 70 percent of its lending to China is focused on the green economy. But in some countries requiring bank aid and in need of energy access, he argued, coal is the only option.
Citing a board rule, Kim said the World Bank board members "do everything we can not to invest in coal. Everything we possibly can."
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500