We know that the Bush administration has consistently tried to water down policy documents on climate change, both home and abroad.

Now there is evidence that the White House’s pointman at the bank, the now disgraced Paul Wolfowitz, personally intervened to remove the words “climate change” from the title of a bank progress report and ordered changes to the text of the report to shift the focus away from global warming.

But the issue predates Mr Wolfowitz’s appointment as president of the bank in June 2005. According to the Government Accountability Project (GAP), which has tracked efforts to censor debate on global warming, environmental specialists at the World Bank tried unsuccessfully to press for consideration of greenhouse- gas emissions in a paper written – but never published – in 2002.

It was politics that prevented the publication of that paper, according to one senior bank insider and politics that has been the principal obstacle to progress since.

Only now, with the Bush administration on the ropes politically and the scientific evidence for global warming reaching such critical mass that even President George Bush has been forced to acknowledge its reality, are those same bank officials trying again to put the issue on the agenda.

“Our biggest obstacle has been that politically, [climate change] is very controversial,” Kristalina Georgieva, says the bank’s strategy and operations director for sustainable development.

She said that, even under the best of circumstances, it will be at least two years before the bank starts measuring the impact of fossil fuel-related projects on the planet’s health. “We are not moving fast enough,” she added. “It’s not possible to be moving fast enough.”