While Kerry Backs Global Green Fund in Peru, House GOP Says No to $3B US Pledge

Patrick Goodenough | December 11, 2014 | 7:58pm EST
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United States Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a speech at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru, Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

(CNSNews.com) – Secretary of State John Kerry lent his weight to U.N. climate talks in Peru Thursday and lauded the achievement of an initial $10 billion target in pledges for a global fund designed to help poorer countries cope with climate change.

Back in Washington, however, congressional Republicans are taking aim at the U.S. contribution to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which accounts for almost one third of the total amount pledged to date.

A provision in the omnibus spending bill currently before the House of Representatives states that “no funds may be made available for the Green Climate Fund, for which no funds were requested in fiscal year 2015.”

President Obama last month pledged $3 billion for the GCF, by far the largest contribution promised from the more than 20 governments that have done so. Total pledges passed the $10 billion mark this week.

“I understand we now have enough pledges from the international community to meet and exceed the initial Climate Green Fund target of 10 billion,” Kerry told the climate conference in the Peruvian capital, Lima, on Thursday. “And the United States is very proud to be contributing three billion.”

He reiterated his well-known positions on climate change:

--that “97 percent” of peer-reviewed climate studies have confirmed that climate change is happening and humans are responsible.

--that the science “is screaming at us, warning us, compelling us – hopefully – to act.”

--that climate change is at least as serious as other major global threats, including “terrorism, extremism, epidemics, poverty, nuclear proliferation.”

Kerry also targeted those who challenge global warming dogma.

“What happens if the climate skeptics are wrong? Catastrophe. And we have a responsibility to put in place the precautionary principle when you’re given certain evidence and you’re a public official.”

He urged those listening in Lima and around the world “to demand resolve from your leaders. Speak out. Make climate change an issue that no public official can ignore for even one more day, let alone for one more election.”

Activists demonstrate outside U.N. climate talks in Durban, South Africa on December 1, 2011. (Photo: Luka Tomac/Friends of the Earth Int’l/Flickr)

‘Precious taxpayer dollars’

With Kerry at the forefront, Obama’s second-term administration is seeking to exert world leadership on climate change ahead of the next U.N. climate megaconference, in Paris in a year’s time, when negotiators hope to produce a new global agreement on reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse gases” blamed for climate change.

In Copenhagen five years ago, President Obama joined other leaders in agreeing to set up the GCF. The ambitious aim: to raise $100 billion a year from public and private sources by 2020, to help developing countries’ efforts to combat climate change by providing grants and concessional funding. Now fully up and running, the fund sought initial pledges of $10 billion this year.

After Obama last month offered $3 billion, Republicans heading for leadership positions in the new Senate quickly signaled he could run into trouble.

“President Obama’s pledge to give unelected bureaucrats at the U.N. $3 billion for climate change initiatives is an unfortunate decision to not listen to voters in this most recent election cycle,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a climate change skeptic who from January will return to the helm of the Environment and Public Works Committee.

“The president’s climate change agenda has only siphoned precious taxpayer dollars away from the real problems facing the American people,” he said. “In a new Congress, I will be working with my colleagues to reset the misguided priorities of Washington in the past six years.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who will chair the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on State and foreign operations next year, was quoted by Politico as predicting the authorization for the GCF would be difficult “given what’s going on in the world right now.”

A Congressional Research Service report published shortly after Obama made the pledge summarized some of the challenges ahead for the administration.

“Members of Congress hold mixed views about the value of international financial assistance to  address climate change,” it said. “While some Members are convinced that human-induced climate change is a high-priority risk that must be addressed through federal actions and international cooperation, others are not as convinced.”

“Some are wary, as well, of international processes that could impose costs on the United States, redirect funds from domestic budget priorities, undermine national sovereignty, or lead to competitive advantages for other countries,” the CRS report said.

Although – as the omnibus spending bill states – the administration has not requested funding for the GCF in the current fiscal year, it has requested funds elsewhere to help poorer countries deal with climate change.

The State Department’s FY2015 request includes $401 million for international organizations working on climate change and renewable energy programs in developing nations, a six percent increase from FY2014 levels.

The department further asks for $316.9 million in bilateral assistance in the climate change field.

“Global climate change threatens the livelihoods of millions in developing countries, and, if not addressed, will stall or even reverse the gains of many development efforts,” the administration said in its budget justification.

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