Aid Cuts to Undermine US Clout on Global Climate Agenda

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivers remarks on Dec. 7, 2010, before delegates to the climate change summit in Cancun. Observers believe the U.S. will lose its influence in climate negotiations should Congress succeed in cutting international climate financing. Photo by: U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change

If Republicans manage to succeed in cutting U.S. funding for global climate initiatives, this will weaken the country’s international influence in future climate change negotiations, according to observers.

U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to seek at least USD1.7 billion in international climate financing when he presents his fiscal 2012 budget request to Congress on Feb. 14, Jean Chemnick of Greenwire reports.

“Republicans [in the House] will propose a cut in international climate funding – they don’t like international especially – and they definitely don’t like climate change,” said Jake Schmidt, international climate policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “And then it will be a conversation between the House and Senate for how they reconcile what I think will be pretty significant differences.”

Despite what appears to be a lack of congressional support for U.S. global climate funding, the international community expects the U.S. government to keep its climate aid pledges as part of the ongoing United Nations-backed climate negotiations.

The U.S. contributed USD1.7 billion last year as part of its pledge made during the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009. Wealthy nations committed USDD30 billion from 2010 to 2012 in fast-track climate financing at the Copenhagen summit.

>> EU, US, Japan: USD9.9B Spent on Fast-track Climate Aid

The U.S. also pledged to help raise USD100 billion in annual climate aid by 2020 to support a green fund, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and forest degradation, and measures to monitor, report and verify emissions reductions by developed countries.

Michael Levi, senior fellow for energy and the environment at the Council on Foreign Relations, said failing to live up to these pledges could cost the U.S. its clout on future climate talks.

“The bottom line is that if the United States isn’t able to follow through on the kinds of things that it is saying it wants to do, that makes it less influential,” he said.

In any event that this happens, developing nations could turn to China to help forge an international climate pact.

Reid Detchon, vice president for energy and climate at the U.N. Foundation, said: “It seems to me that increasingly, developing countries are seeing China as a more reliable partner than the U.S. A country that keeps its commitments.”

The U.S. and China have been at odds on various climate issues, including  emissions monitoring and reporting.

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About the author

  • Ma. Rizza Leonzon

    As a former staff writer, Rizza focused mainly on business coverage, including key donors such as the Asian Development Bank and AusAID.