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US Climate Finance in Limbo, Risking ‘Trust Gap’ Before Paris


A looming federal budget confrontation and Republican hostility to UN global-warming talks threaten a U.S. down payment into a key climate-aid fund, money considered vital to a climate deal in Paris this December.

President Barack Obama had requested $500 million in the 2016 budget for the first tranche of its $3 billion pledge into a UN-administered Green Climate Fund (GCF) that would help poorer countries make a transition to clean energy technologies and adapt to climate change.

But Congressional Republicans have vowed to oppose that spending request, and the wider dispute between the President and Republicans over the federal budget has raised the possibility that Obama will not be able to guarantee that U.S. funding before the December summit. Some U.S. officials have started to warn island states and developing countries – among the fund’s main potential beneficiaries – of the looming shortfall.

The fund is seen as a down payment by rich countries toward a longer-term climate finance package that would total $100 billion a year by 2020, an amount that developing nations say is a condition for them to sign onto any deal in Paris that would reduce global carbon emissions.

So far, 43 percent of the $10.2 billion pledged to the climate fund has not been fulfilled, with the United States responsible for most of that shortcoming.

“If there’s not a firm commitment to financing, there will be no accord, because the countries of the [global] south will reject it,” French President Francois Hollande said this month.

A U.S. State Department official told Reuters that meeting its funding pledge is a “key administration priority” and said its ability to convert it into an actual contribution is “key to advancing U.S. interests globally.”

“We are working intensively with Congress to make this appropriation happen,” the official said in a statement.

But with just two months left before the Paris talks the funding faces stiff resistance.

The House of Representatives passed an appropriations bill this summer directly prohibiting the U.S. from funding the GCF.

And an aide to the Senate environment committee aide told Reuters that Republican senators plan new legislation this fall requiring Congressional oversight for GCF funding.

“Climate finance is an under-riding element of the UN talks that can either further propel this agreement or undermine it completely,” the aide said. “The finance issue is a direct hook for the Senate to get involved in the climate talks process.”

Republican Senator John Barrasso, chair of the Senate panel that oversees multilateral agreements, told Reuters he will push legislation to require any international aid related to climate change to require Congressional approval.

“It’s hard to see an easy path to $500 million. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to have Congressional loose ends tied up by December,” said Karen Orenstein, senior policy analyst at Friends of the Earth, an environmental advocacy group. “This can shift a lot of the plates in the negotiations.”

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