Can Biden deliver on his $11 billion international climate aid pledge? : NPR

President Biden at the world leaders’ summit during the United Nations climate change conference COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland on November 2, 2021.

Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

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Can Biden deliver on his  billion international climate aid pledge? : NPR

President Biden at the world leaders’ summit during the United Nations climate change conference COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland on November 2, 2021.

Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden has pledged $11 billion a year in international climate assistance by 2024, quadrupling the previous US record.

It’s something Biden has repeatedly raised in speeches to other world leaders, including at the United Nations General Assembly in September.

“To fulfill our global responsibility, my administration is working with our Congress to provide more than $11 billion a year in international climate finance,” Biden said then, “to help low-income countries implement their climate goals and to ensure a just energy transition.”

When Biden speaks about US efforts to reduce carbon emissions at the United Nations climate summit, COP27, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on Friday, Biden will repeat that he wants to “help the most vulnerable to strengthen their resilience to climate impacts,” the White House press said. Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.

But it remains unclear whether the president will be able to achieve his goal — particularly if Republicans make gains in the midterm elections this week — as Congress has been reluctant to spend as much money as Biden l ‘asked.

What is international climate aid for?

At previous international climate summits, such as the one Biden will attend this week, developed countries have agreed to help less developed and more vulnerable nations adjust to life on a warmer planet. Developed countries are historically the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, while developing countries have contributed very little to global warming but are bearing the brunt of the damage caused by a warmer and more unpredictable climate. This type of aid and investment is often referred to as “climate finance”.

The United States is the largest economy in the world and the largest cumulative emitter of greenhouse gases. It has done more over time to warm the planet than any other nation, although China now emits more on an annual basis.

How much is the US government spending to help other countries fight climate change?

The United States, like other countries, is required to submit a report every two years to the United Nations documenting progress on its climate goals. The Trump administration did not file these reports for 2018 or 2020.

A retrospective report, submitted by the Biden administration last year, said the United States invested an average of $2.2 billion per year between 2015 and 2018 in international climate finance.

As for what the United States has contributed to climate finance under Biden, the totals have not been officially counted, but the share appropriated by Congress has increased during his tenure.

In March of this year, Democrats in Congress passed a budget that allocated about $1 billion to international climate aid efforts — $387 million more than the same line items under the Trump administration, though far from the 2.5 billion dollars requested by the White House. , and far less than Biden would need to meet his larger pledge.

How Much Should the United States Spend on Climate Change Aid?

At a United Nations conference in 2009, 12 of the world’s largest economies – including the United States – pledged to collectively mobilize at least $100 billion each year for international climate assistance by 2020. from public and private sources.

This pledge was never fulfilled – and countries have now extended the target to 2025.

In 2020, the most recent year for which full data is available, developed countries mobilized around $83 billion for climate finance, a mix of government grants and loans as well as private dollars.

Compared to the other countries involved, the United States invests a lot of money in terms of total dollars, but a relatively small amount compared to the size of its economy.

An analysis by the World Resources Institute, which works to advance international climate action, estimates that a “fair share” for the United States of the $100 billion commitment from major economies would be between $40 billion and $47 billion. dollars a year, given the size of its economy and its historical contribution to global warming.

The $11 billion in annual climate financial assistance Biden has pledged — and the $100 billion the United States has pledged collectively with other global economies — would be a major resource to help the poorest countries. to adapt and mitigate the damage caused by global warming.

Proponents see it as a good faith commitment, a sign that the United States and other major emitters are taking the issue seriously.

But as a UN report announced earlier this month, the pledge is still well below the total amount needed to tackle the immense global challenges posed by the climate crisis.

Where would the money for Biden’s climate pledge come from?

The administration has two main sources of funding it hopes to tap into: appropriate funding from Congress and funds from federal development agencies.

The White House would like Congress to provide $5.3 billion, or about half of the total pledge, to help specific countries and support major international efforts like the Green Climate Fund.

Administration officials hope the second half will come from sources such as the Export-Import Bank and the International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), government agencies that use financial instruments such as loans and insurance to advance US foreign policy objectives.

Congress doesn’t like Biden’s $11 billion pledge

The first — and most immediate — hurdle Biden faces is Congress. Passing any funding bill requires 60 votes to clear the Senate. That means Democrats have to convince some Republican lawmakers to join them.

The White House asked Congress for $5.3 billion in funding in its 2023 budget request in March, which would be enough, in combination with the money earmarked for development funding, to meet the president’s pledge. . But that’s a big step up from what Congress has done in the past — about five times what it’s allocated for 2022.

Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, denounced the White House proposal as “another pipe dream of liberal activism and climate extremism.”

And since the release of the budget in the spring, the headwinds facing the administration have only grown stronger. Inflation has remained stubbornly high and some economists fear that the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hikes could lead to a recession.

That would mean adding billions to international climate aid could be a tough pill for some lawmakers — even some Democrats — to swallow.

Biden also hopes to appeal to development agencies for climate funds

Government development agencies are another source of funding for Biden’s pledge. The government invests in overseas projects through agencies such as the Export-Import Bank and the International Development Finance Corporation, which lend money and seek to generate a return on their investments.

The Export-Import Bank and DFC support their work largely through the fees and returns they make on their loans and other programs, rather than through the money they receive from Congress.

These agencies may increase their spending on climate-focused programs to help meet the president’s pledge, according to Bella Tonkonogy of the Climate Policy Initiative, a nonprofit policy research organization.

But Tonkonogy warned it was not just about whether the government could find the money. There is also the question of whether these agencies can quickly identify and validate quality projects.

“This will require working differently – from developing comprehensive climate strategies, to building staff capacity, to partnering with other agencies,” Tonkonogy said.


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