WH on Global Climate Change: ‘We’re Not Spending Money on That Anymore’

By Patrick Goodenough | March 16, 2017 | 11:23 PM EDT

President Obama pledged $3 billion over four years to the Green Climate Fund. (AP Photo, File)

(CNSNews.com) – In line with campaign pledges that riled environmental activists and the Obama administration, President Trump is seeking to eliminate funding for global climate programs including the Green Climate Fund, which the White House on Thursday described as “a waste of your money.”

“Regarding the question as to climate change, I think the president was fairly straightforward,” Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney said in a briefing of the proposed budget for fiscal year 2018..

“We’re not spending money on that anymore,” he said. “We consider that to be a waste of your money to go out and do that. So that is a specific tie to his – to his campaign.”

Days before the election, Trump vowed if successful to “cancel billions in global warming payments to the United Nations,” saying he would devote funds instead to “environmental infrastructure” at home.

His proposed FY 2018 budget eliminates funding for the Global Climate Change Initiative (GCCI) and for U.N. climate programs, cutting all funding for the GCF and two precursor climate investment funds.

Last year the Obama administration requested $1.3 billion for the GCCI for FY 2017. The breakdown was $352.2 million for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), $631.7 million for the State Department and $350.4 million for the Treasury Department.

Those figures included $750 million for the GCF –  $500 million from the State Department account and $250 million from Treasury..

President Obama earlier unilaterally pledged $3 billion over four years to the GCF, an entity designed to help developing countries reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and adapt to phenomena blamed on climate change such as rising sea-levels and drought.

A first instalment of $500 million was paid in March 2016, and a second instalment, also $500 million, just three days before Trump’s inauguration in January.

Republican critics of the U.N. climate efforts were furious, with Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) saying the payment to what he called a “slush fund” was “an insult to American taxpayers.”

There was no immediate response Thursday to the proposed finding elimination from Barrasso, but a spokesman for the EPW majority said, “When the committee receives the details of the budget from the administration, it will evaluate the president’s priorities in the context of congressional priorities.”

In keeping with Trump’s pledge to defund U.N. climate change programs, also in the crosshairs is the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), whose Paris climate agreement in 2015 was touted as a major policy success by the Obama administration and especially then-Secretary of State John Kerry.

Obama’s FY 2017 request had included $13 million to go directly to the UNFCCC (apart from hundreds of millions going through the GCCI towards implementation of its Paris agreement, by helping countries to reduce their GHG emissions and improve their CO2 accounting practices.).

The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change secretariat is based at the U.N. complex in Bonn, Germany. (Photo: UNFCCC)

Some GOP lawmakers argued last year that the UNFCCC should be denied U.S. funding anyway, in line with U.S. law, after it admitted the “state of Palestine.” The State Department pushed back, saying it was not obliged to cut funding since the UNFCCC was “a treaty,” not an international organization. Barrasso at the time accused it of engaging in “verbal gymnastics.”

Thursday’s budget proposals, which include a 31 percent reduction in funding  -- from $8.3 billion to $5.7 billion – for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), brought an anticipated storm of outrage from environmental activist groups.

Greenpeace spokesman Travis Nichols called it “a budget for the Stone Age, not the 21st century.”

“It’s now up to the people of this country to tell Congress that deleting the phrase ‘climate change’ from the budget won’t change the science or the reality.”

The Sierra Club (whose current fundraising blurb is “Protect Our Planet from Trump”) urged Congress to reject the budget proposals.

“Money talks, and Trump’s budget proposal screams that the only thing that matters in his America is corporate polluters’ profits and Wall Street billionaires,” said executive director Michael Brune.

“If Trump refuses to be serious about protecting our health and climate, or our publicly owned lands, then Congress must act, do its job, and reject this rigged budget.”

Friends of the Earth senior political strategist Ben Schreiber also weighed in, accusing the president of “using his office to hand the reins of government over to corporate polluters.”

“With this budget, Trump has made it clear that he is prioritizing Big Oil profits over the health of the American people,” he said.

Meanwhile Competitive Enterprise Institute vice president for strategy Iain Murray called Trump’s budget proposals “the clearest sign yet that he is moving forward with his efforts to uproot waste and drastically shrink the federal government.”

“For years, CEI has called for numerous ways to increase federal savings by getting rid of programs that cost more than they deliver to the American people,” he said, citing initiatives such as the GCF.

See also:

'Slush Fund': Senator Slams State Dept. for $500M Payment to Green Climate Fund (March 9, 2016)

Days After $500,000 US Funding Injection, UN Green Climate Fund Decides to Increase Staff Numbers by 150 Percent (March 14, 2016)

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow