Monday, November 17, 2014

Obama Pledges $3 Billion to the Green Climate Fund

On the heels of signing an important emissions reduction agreement with China, US President Barack Obama has pledged $3 billion to the UN's Green Climate Fund (GCF) at a meeting of the G20 in Australia. The GCF is an important international fund that serves as a crucial mechanism to help poorer nations reduce their emissions and adapt to climate change. This fund was created four years ago, and although it got off to a slow start, the President's pledge combined with the pledges of other nations will help to grow momentum.

French President Francois Hollande pledged US $1 billion (€780 million) in September at the UN Climate Summit in New York city, and German leader Angela Merkel made a similar pledge earlier in the year. Other nations including Sweden, the Netherlands, Mexico, and South Korea have also made pledges. As of today contributions to the fund total $US 8 billion. The UNFCCC goal for the forthcoming climate talks in Lima this December is $10 - 15 billion. The 20th UN Conference of the Parties (COP) in Peru will set the stage for COP 21 next year in Paris where it is hoped that we will see a global climate agreement.

Obama's GFC pledge will make it more difficult for other nations to avoid contributing to the GFC. It remains to be seen if developed nations like the UK, Italy, New Zealand, Belgium, Ireland and Austria will make GCF pledges. Four nations (Canada, Australia, Poland and Japan) stood out for their opposition to progress at COP 19 last year. Fossil fuel loving climate laggards like Canada and Australia have been major obstacles in efforts to secure a global agreement. However, in the wake of Obama's pledge, Canada appears to have had a change of heart about the GFC, and the government is reportedly preparing to make an announcement about a Canadian contribution. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott remains adamantly opposed to the fund. Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, offered $1.5 billion for the GFC.

As the head of the world's largest economy, Obama is working to push the US to assume its share of green climate funding. However, the Republican controlled Congress reflexively opposes the President and this is particularly true of climate action efforts like the GCF pledge. Republican gains in the 2014 midterms saw a slate of climate deniers increase their hold on the House and take control of the Senate. The GOP now controls powerful committees and this will only embolden their virulent opposition to climate action.

Despite the ignorance and obstructionism of Republicans, President Obama's GFC pledge is yet another indication that the US is serious about combating climate change. This is an important step on the road to securing a global climate agreement next year in Paris.

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