Congress Keeps Head Firmly In The Sand On Climate Change

In June, the Senate Appropriations State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Subcommittee’s Department of State approved a $52.08 billion spending bill that would block the U.S. from sending money to the United Nation’s Green Climate Fund (GCF). The Green Climate Fund is the principal part of a U.N. goal to raise $100 billion for climate funding from private and government sources to help countries cut greenhouse gases and adapt to climate change effects. This program was primarily established to help developing countries cope with climate change. The bill also weakens policies by the Export-Import Bank of the United States, Overseas Private Investment Corp., and World Bank that limit the financing of coal-fired power plants.

Funding the GCF was and continues to be a key project in the Obama administration. In November 2014, President Obama pledged $3 billion to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Green Climate Fund to go towards climate goals. In March, less than three months after the historic Paris climate agreement, the U.S. made the first of its promised payments of $500 million to the fund. The March payment came despite Republican opposition to the Green Climate Fund as the party last year ignored President Obama’s funding request for the program and sought to block funding for it unless the Senate got a vote on the Paris climate deal. A year-end spending deal, however, didn’t expressly prohibit federal funding for the GCF, and the Obama administration found money for it elsewhere in the State Department’s budget. Since that payment, the GOP has repeatedly pledged to block any funds in attempts to derail last year’s climate change deal in Paris.

The White House revealed ambitious goals to include $750 million for the Green Climate Fund in the fiscal year 2017 budget request, of which $500 million would come from the State Department. However, the Senate’s Department of State spending bill, released in late June, will prohibit any funding from the bill or prior acts from being used for grants, assistance or contributions to the fund. The provision will likely raise opposition among Democrats. Even so, an Appropriations subcommittee cleared the bill in a matter of minutes of Tuesday, and ranking Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT) indicated members will look to amend the bill during a full committee markup on Wednesday.