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President Obama’s budget contributes to fast-start international climate finance

Heather Allen

Posted February 2, 2010 in Solving Global Warming

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The White House released a proposed budget for 2011 which includes $1.4 billion to helps provide needed investments in developing countries to address the impacts of global warming pollution, shift to a clean energy future, and reduce the loss of tropical rainforests.  The proposed budget represent a 38% increase from the 2010 international climate change finance budget, and will strengthen the US contribution to the Copenhagen Accord goal of $10 billion per year of fast-start funds (stay tuned - I will post more about other nations contributions to the fast-start funds soon).

We can and certainly will need to go further to meet the needed investments in these international efforts over the next few years, but this is a solid down payment toward helping the most vulnerable countries adapt to climate change, speeding the transition to a global low carbon economy, and maintaining the momentum of action spurred by the Copenhagen Accord (as we’ve tracked here).

As President Obama said at the UN Conference on Climate Change in New York this September:

No nation, however, large or small, wealthy or poor, can escape the impact of climate change… The security and stability of each nation and all peoples – our prosperity, our health, and our safety – are in jeopardy … We have a responsibility to provide the financial and technical assistance needed to help these nations adapt to the impacts of climate change and pursue low-carbon development.

Investing in these activities is in the US interest:

  • Security -   Yesterday’s Department of Defense Report  said that climate change is acting as an “accelerant of instability” & “weakening fragile governments.” Curbing climate change and providing adaptation tools will lessen the need to deploy troops to areas ravaged by drought, famine and conflict aggravated by global warming, saving lives and tax-payer money.
  • Jobs/economy – New technology and clean energy investments around the world create new markets and new opportunities for US innovators to lead to a clean energy future providing new jobs and opportunities.
  • Health – the damages to our health and quality of life—including costly contamination of our air and water supplies—from global warming pollution are not included in the prices of these fuels.   the damages to our health and environment from global warming pollution are not included in the prices of these fuels.   We need global action to transition away from these fuels to protect our own health. A new report from the National Academies of science estimate the hidden health costs in the United States alone are 120 billion.
  • Transparency – the agreement in Copenhagen paved the way for increased frequency and transparency of reporting by developing countries on their emissions, actions to reduce global warming pollution, and progress towards their commitments (as my colleagues have discussed here, here, and here).  US investments can help support these efforts in developing countries so we have increased transparency of progress towards solving global warming.  

The majority of international climate finance programming is included in the budgets of three agencies the Agency for International Development ($491 million), The Department of State ($155 million), and Treasury ($744 million).  The funds will move bilaterally through direct in-country activities and multi-laterally through U.S. contributions to the World Bank and other international funds.  In addition to these three agencies, other scientific and technical agencies like NASA, NOAA and EPA are doing key climate science and modeling, providing information for people on the ground to predict and adapt to climate change.  The Department of Energy will continue to direct research and development to clean technology and share scientific data and expertise with counterparts around the world.  The other agency contributions amount to another 104 million.

So how exactly will the funds be spent?

Adaptation - $334 million

 

USAID

Adaptation activities

187

State

Least Developed Country Fund (LDCF)

30

 

Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF)

20

 

Other UNFCCC

7

Treasury

Pilot Program for Climate Resilience

90

 

As I have detailed here adaptation programs will climate-proof development activities, making water and food security programs more resilient, and investing in systems that can withstand more extreme temperatures and less predictable weather and precipitation and the tools to understand and anticipate those conditions.  The Least Developed Country Fund (LDCF)and Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) are multi-lateral funds under the UNFCCC assisting the least developed countries in their efforts to adapt to climate change.

Clean Energy - $710 million

USAID

Clean Energy

129

State

Major Economies Initiatives and Programs

30

 

Methane to Markets

5

 

Montreal Protocol

24

 

Western Hemisphere Affairs

10

 

UNFCCC

5

Treasury

Clean Technology Fund

400

 

Program for Scaling up Renewable Energy in Low

 

 

  Income Countries (SPREP)

50

 

Global Environmental Facility

58

 

Clean energy investments will be focused in four key areas: energy efficiency, low-carbon energy, clean transport and energy sector reforms to promote sustained investment in energy sectors.  Its also important to note that many of these programs will move through international funds like the World Bank’s Clean Technology Fund.  The appropriation language regarding this fund requires that these investments reduce overall emissions, do not cause adverse public health or environment threats, and improve energy efficiency of buildings or transport or transition power generation toward renewable forms (and gas in the case that it replaces coal).  These requirements may help transition this major World Bank initiative to a cleaner energy portfolio.

Deforestation Reductions and Increased Forest Cover - $347 million

USAID

Sustainable Landscapes

175

State

World Bank Forest Carbon Partnership Facility

15

 

International Conservation Programs

8

 

UNFCCC

2

Treasury

Tropical Forest Conservation Act

20

 

Global Environment Facility

32

 

Forest Investment Program

95

 

The sustainable landscapes budget item is largely comprised of programs to reduce deforestation, but seeks to include the broader landscape including soils, and eventually agriculture.  In this case many of the funds will be used to build capacity to enable effective REDD programs including monitoring and reporting of emissions, land tenure and governance and technical agricultural and forestry methods.

Are other government resources going in the wrong direction?

Fortunately, while the Obama administration is establishing a good down payment on international climate finance, they have also made a strategic choice to focus on the entirety of the U.S. government support.  When we are trying to solve global warming we can’t have any US support investing in activities that increase emissions (going in the wrong direction) – we need all gears moving us towards solution (going in the right direction). 

The President’s budget begins to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies worth $36 billion dollars over 10 years as was agreed at the recent G20 meeting (as my colleague discussed here).  My colleague has written in detail about how the proposed budget eliminates tax loopholes for oil, gas and coal.  By eliminating inefficient subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, the Obama Administration is raising the funds we need to combat climate change and invest in the solutions to adapt and move toward a more sustainable future.

And the President’s budget recognizes that other government supported entities like the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation need to also be moving us in the right direction.  So his budget signals that they are going to help speed the transition of these institutions to supporting global warming solutions.

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The President’s budget signals an important down payment in efforts to assist developing countries in deploying clean energy, reducing deforestation, and adapting to the impacts of global warming.  The U.S. and other countries will need to increase their investments in these critical opportunities over time, but the President’s budget rightly recognizes that these investments are in the U.S. interest.

These are investments in our security, jobs, and health.  That sounds like a smart investment to me and one that we should ensure is supported by Congress.  We’ll be working with Congress and the Administration to secure this funding and help make sure that it is being wisely invested.

 

 

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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