(CNSNews.com) – American taxpayers spent $7.45 billion to help developing countries cope with climate change in fiscal years 2010 through 2012, according to a federal government report submitted to the United Nations on a subject that Secretary of State John Kerry described as “a truly life-and-death challenge.”
That sum of $7.45 billion, which reached more than 120 countries through bilateral and multilateral channels, met President Obama’s “commitment to provide our fair share” of a collective pledge by developed nations to provide a total of nearly $30 billion in “fast start finance” (FSF), the report stated.
The pledge was made at a Dec. 2009 U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen, and the FSF funding aims to support developing countries adapt to and cope with phenomena blamed on climate change, such as droughts and rising sea levels.
“International assistance for climate change continues to be a major priority for the United States,” the administration said in its “Climate Action Report,” submitted to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on Wednesday.
It noted that since the U.S. ratified the convention in 1992, its international climate funding had increased from “virtually zero” to an average of $2.5 billion each year in the 2010-2012 FSF period.
“During the period, average annual appropriated climate assistance increased fourfold compared with 2009 funding levels,” the report said. “U.S. climate assistance has increased in the context of an overall increasing foreign assistance budget.”
According to UNFCCC data, of the $7.45 billion in U.S. funding, $4.7 billion was congressionally-appropriated assistance while development finance and export credit support accounted for a further $2.7 billion of public money.
It’s time to ‘do what our faiths require of us’
In a cover letter accompanying the report, Kerry underlined the high priority the administration – and himself personally – accords to the issue.
“Climate change is one of the most urgent and profoundly complex challenges we face,” he wrote. “That’s why, everywhere I travel as Secretary of State – in every meeting, here at home and across the more than 280,000 miles I’ve traveled since I raised my hand and took the oath to serve in this office – I have made this issue a top priority.”
Without directly mentioning those scientists and others who question the “consensus” on climate change, Kerry reiterated his view that the science is incontrovertible and implied that anyone arguing otherwise lacked “conscience or common sense.”
“Today, all the scientific evidence is telling us that we cannot afford to delay the reckoning with climate change,” he said. “With each passing day, the case grows more compelling and the costs of inaction grow beyond anything that anyone with conscience or common sense should be willing to contemplate.”
Kerry pointed to the most report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released last September, and summed it up as follows: “Bottom line: Climate change is real, it’s happening now, and human beings are the cause.”
(The report’s actual wording was, “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.” The language was somewhat stronger than the previous IPCC report, in 2007, which asserted that global warming was “very likely” man-made.)
“In the face of these risks and these warnings, it is time for all of us to do what the science tells us we must, to do what our faiths require of us, and to do what our fragile planet demands of us: It’s time to take strong action to combat a truly life-and-death challenge,” Kerry stated.
Much more to come
FSF programs funded by the U.S. cover a wide range, including helping Peru and Nepal to deal with glacier-related risks, working on making Mozambique’s coastal cities more resilient to “sea level rise and other climate change stresses,” and assisting Pakistan to address its power shortage, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and its reliance on fossil fuel.
The funding directed to the FSF channel in 2010-2012 is a drop in the bucket compared to what is to come. At that same 2009 conference in Copenhagen the U.S. and other developed nations in a longer-term commitment undertook to set up a $100 billion-a-year Green Climate Fund by 2020. The money is meant to come from public and private sources.
“The United States is prepared to work with other countries toward a goal of jointly mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020 to address the climate change needs of developing countries,” then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at Copenhagen. “We expect this funding will come from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources of finance.”
Since the GCF was launched in 2011 few nations have begun to direct money to its coffers (as of June 30, 2013 it had received just $7.5 million, from seven European countries plus South Korea, Japan and Australia.)
But officials want that to change this year, as UNFCCC executive secretary Christiana Figueres made clear while speaking at the opening of the GCF’s new headquarters in South Korea on Dec. 4.
“Governments now have a crucial tool at their disposal to leverage billions in finance for developing counties to green their economies and increase their resilience to the inevitable effects of climate change,” she said.
“As soon as the final modalities are clarified in 2014, governments must capitalize the fund. This is essential so that developing countries know that the developed world will deliver on its promise to help the poor and vulnerable gain access to the finance and technology they need.”
In the report sent to the UNFCCC this week the administration outlined its commitment in mobilizing public and private funding in working towards the GCF goal.
“Maintaining a strong core of public climate finance is essential, and the United States intends to maintain its commitment to climate change as an important component in the U.S. assistance budget,” it said.
“Private investment will inevitably play an increasingly important role as developing countries put mitigation and adaptation policies and actions into place. The nation is working to combine its significant, but finite, public resources with targeted, smart policies to mobilize maximum private investment into climate-friendly activities.”