(CNSNews.com) – In his final budget, President Obama is seeking $750 million for the Green Climate Fund – part of a $3 billion commitment which Republican lawmakers earlier vowed to block unless the U.N. climate agreement reached in Paris last December was submitted to the Senate for ratification.
But when Congress passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill days after the Paris deal was struck, the package neither blocked nor included funding for the GCF.
Asked at the time whether the administration would be able to repurpose funds for the GCF under the omnibus, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that “based on what we have reviewed so far, there are no restrictions in our ability to make good on the president’s promise to contribute to the Green Climate Fund.”
The fiscal year 2017 budget for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), released to Congress on Tuesday. Totaling $50.1 billion, it includes $989.9 million for Obama’s “Global Climate Change Initiative.”
Among other things, this covers bilateral and multilateral climate finance funding, and funds to help countries develop and implement “low [greenhouse gas] emissions development strategies.” It will also support implementation of the U.N.’s Paris climate deal, and $13 million will go to the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The $989.9 million sum includes $500 million for the Green Climate Fund (GCF), a global fund designed to help developing countries curb greenhouse gas emissions and cope with phenomena attributed to climate change, such as floods, drought and rising sea levels.
A further $250 million for the GCF is included in the Department of Treasury budget, making a total of $750 million for the fund – an increase from $500 million in FY 2016.
Praising the increase, Oxfam America’s climate change policy manager Heather Coleman said Tuesday it “reflects U.S. leadership and commitment to the Paris climate agreement, as the GCF serves as one of the convention’s official financial mechanisms.”
Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources Heather Higginbottom told reporters at the State Department the $750 million in funding for the GCF “will help developing countries leverage public and private financing to reduce carbon pollution and strengthen their resilience to the effects of climate change.”
The administration’s budget justification says that “[g]lobal climate change threatens the livelihoods of millions in developing countries, and if not addressed will likely stall or even reverse the gains of many development efforts.”
Obama in November 2014 pledged $3 billion for the GCF, an initiative that ultimately aims to raise $100 billion a year globally from public and private sources by 2020.
The GCF has long been targeted by GOP lawmakers, and opposition built ahead of the Paris climate conference.
Days before the gathering began, 37 Republican senators warned the president that they would block taxpayer funds for the GCF “until the forthcoming international climate agreement is submitted to the Senate for its constitutional advice and consent.”
A similar warning came in a letter signed by 110 members of the House of Representatives, addressed to the chairman and ranking member of the Appropriations Committee.
A concurrent resolution was then introduced by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), and co-sponsored by 33 other Republicans, linking funding for climate change initiatives including the GCF to Senate advice and consent of the Paris deal.
The administration maintains that the agreement forged in Paris does not require additional Senate advise and consent.
Nonetheless, the omnibus spending bill passed in December did not include a provision prohibiting funding for the GCF, an omission that drew criticism from Heritage Foundation experts and prompted climate activists to declare a win.
“This is a rebuke to those congressional extremists who tried to play politics with desperately needed money to help the world’s poor take climate action,” said Karen Orenstein of Friends of the Earth in response to the absence of language blocking GCF funding.