US Pledges $3 Billion for Climate Aid to Poor Countries at COP28

US Pledges $3 Billion for Climate Aid to Poor Countries at COP28

Vice President Kamala Harris will announce the commitment at the summit in Dubai, where increasing climate finance is a focus of talks.

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The US will pledge $3 billion toward a United Nations fund meant to help developing countries slash greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change — an effort that could help rebuild trust in rich nations’ promises of aid amid pivotal climate talks in Dubai.

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The pledge of support for the Green Climate Fund, described by State Department officials ahead of a planned speech by Vice President Kamala Harris at the COP28 summit Saturday, would come on top of $9.3 billion in new commitments already announced by the UK, France, Germany, Japan and other nations. This is the second round of replenishment for the fund, and the US promise would bring it to its highest level yet. 

The Biden administration’s commitment follows a steady increase in the grants, loans and other finance the US has directed toward climate change in recent years as it seeks to rebound from the presidency of Donald Trump, who pulled the nation out of the Paris Agreement and canceled funding for major global warming initiatives.

The pledge is seen as helping to shore up US credibility at the start of the two-week COP28. During negotiations at recent COPs, the limits of finance — and the long-running failure of wealthy countries to provide it — have fostered deep mistrust and tension. The rich world was supposed to provide $100 billion a year in climate finance for emerging economies starting in 2020, a milestone it appears to have reached two years late.

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After building its economy by burning fossil fuels, and generating the largest share of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere today, the US also is under pressure to provide more support for countries bearing the brunt of the resulting planetary warming. 

International climate finance committed by the US reached $5.8 billion in 2022, a State Department official said, compared with $1.3 billion provided in 2021, under a budget largely shaped by Trump. And this year, US climate finance is set to eclipse $9.5 billion, the official said, putting the country on a path to potentially fulfill President Joe Biden’s ambition to provide $11.4 billion in 2024.

The promised new funding, for the years 2024 through 2028, depends on appropriations from the US Congress, where similar spending plans have met resistance from Republican lawmakers. For instance, former President Barack Obama pledged $3 billion for the Green Climate Fund in 2014, though ultimately only $2 billion of that was delivered, with the most recent $1 billion installment coming earlier this year. There is no current plan for making up that outstanding $1 billion, the State Department official said; instead, the focus is on making the second replenishment the most successful ever.

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Administration officials hope to draw support by capitalizing on greater awareness of the UN fund and its work — including initiatives to bolster rice farming in Thailand and improve flood risk management in Bosnia and Herzegovina. By contrast, in 2014, the GCF was just getting started and was seen as overly ambitious by some lawmakers and as downright sinister by others, the official said.

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The US sat out a pledging conference for the fund in October, amid a congressional showdown over its federal government budget. Australia, Italy, Sweden and Switzerland also withheld new pledges. The initial total commitment was widely seen as a disappointment, below the $10.3 billion offered to kick off the fund in 2014 and the $10 billion replenishment promised five years later. 

All of it is just a fraction of the estimated hundreds of billions required by the end of the decade to help developing countries build more resilient infrastructure, safeguard water supplies and otherwise adapt to a warming world. That doesn’t include the money countries need to install emission-free power so they can meet their Paris Agreement targets.

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Overall, rich countries appear to have provided at least $100 billion in climate finance for poor nations in 2022, making good on their overdue promise of funding, according to the latest estimates from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. However, the amount that went to support adaptation — instead of more bankable ventures such as renewable energy development — declined roughly 14% in 2021. US support for international adaptation work climbed from roughly $269 million in 2021 to about $2.3 billion in 2022, according to the State Department official. Biden has laid out a goal of earmarking $3 billion for adaptation by 2024.

The issue looms large over the conference that began Thursday in Dubai. Biden isn’t planning to attend the conference this year, though high-ranking US officials besides Harris, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, are at the summit. Harris is set to deliver a US statement to the conference and then participate in an event on renewable energy, using the events to highlight the nation’s work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, support adaptation and boost climate resilience, a White House official said.

(Updates with latest 2022 numbers from 6th paragraph.)

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