Strauss-Kahn resigns – but who will replace him?

The <em>New Statesman</em> runs through a list of the IMF chief’s potential successors.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn has succumbed to the inevitable and resigned. Here is his letter to the IMF:

It is with infinite sadness that I feel compelled today to present to the Executive Board my resignation from my post of Managing Director of the IMF.

I think at this time first of my wife – whom I love more than anything – of my children, of my family, of my friends.

I think also of my colleagues at the Fund; together we have accomplished such great things over the last three years and more.

To all, I want to say that I deny with the greatest possible firmness all of the allegations that have been made against me.

I want to protect this institution which I have served with honour and devotion, and especially – especially – I want to devote all my strength, all my time, and all my energy to proving my innocence.

The extremely serious allegations against him made the decision a foregone conclusion. Now, the race to succeed him begins.

Usually the position of head of the IMF has gone to a European, while the head of the World Bank has been an American. But with the rise of the Brics countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and the increasing power of emerging countries such as Mexico, Indonesia and South Africa, some have called for a non-westerner to be appointed head.

This looks unlikely to happen, however. The IMF is in the middle of dealing with the European sovereign debt crisis. For the next few years at least, its leader will be dealing with European problems and knocking the heads of European politicians and central bankers together. Below, Harry Key runs through a list of likely candidates for successor to DSK.

Runners and riders

Christine Lagarde

First woman to be finance minister in a G7 nation

After winning widespread support and praise for her policies responding to the financial crisis in France, she is seen by many economists as Europe's leading candidate for the post. She may be hurt by her French nationality, while her questionable links to the businessman Bernard Tapie will cause unease among those who want a scandal-free IMF chie.

Axel Weber

Former president of the German Central Bank

Weber is a leading candidate and is rumoured to be the favoured candidate of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel. However, some see his hawkish policy as too hardline for the IMF's current position on Europe's financial problems, particularly after the generous terms offered to European countries by the fund under Strauss-Kahn.

Kermal Dervis

Vice-president and director of the global economy and development programme, Brookings Institution

Dervis was credited with saving Turkey from bankruptcy in the early 2000s and was honoured by the Japanese government for his work as former head of the UN Development Programme. His solid contacts and personal relationships in Europe make him a strong candidate.

Gordon Brown

Former prime minister of the UK

Although James Wolfensohn, a former World Bank chairman, has claimed that there "is no one better" for the position, the absence of any support from the British government makes it unlikely that Brown will achieve his dream of leading the IMF.

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The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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