Poor countries will need some $6 billion in food aid annually, with food and energy prices expected to remain high for years to come, the president of the World Bank said Saturday.

Robert Zoellick said the bank also was seeking billions more dollars to finance climate investment funds to help developing countries combat global warming and facilitate the transfer of technologies from the industrial world.

Zoellick estimated that this year $10 billion would be needed to ease the effects of food inflation, including $3.5 billion for "short term safety net" projects in more than 50 countries, like school lunches and work-for-food programs.

He said the World Food Program, which feeds the world's hungry, would require $6 billion on a continuing basis.

"While we hope for some supply response, our estimate is that prices will remain above 2004 levels through at least 2012," he told reporters.

Energy prices also would remain high and volatile, he said.

Zoellick was attending a conference organized by the Dutch government on the changing functions of the World Bank.

One way the bank should evolve is by focusing more on cross-border issues, departing from its traditional role of financing development through individual states, he said, citing the climate investment funds as one example.

Zoellick said he received pledges of $6 billion for the climate funds during this week's summit in Japan of the Group of Eight industrial countries, which he said was separate from all other development aid.

Some nongovernment organizations have criticized the funds, saying the bank has a poor record on environmental issues. They say the money should go into an adaptation fund administered by the U.N. body overseeing negotiations on a new climate change treaty to succeed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

Zoellick said the bank's climate change fund will serve as a run-in for the U.N. fund that will be created under the treaty, which should take effect in 2012.

"It's good that we get these up and running because we will learn a lot about the technology transfer, deforestation issues and some of the adaptation questions," he said.