Sen. Lugar concerned about foreign aid spending on climate change programs

The leading Republican champion of foreign aid on Monday expressed concern that U.S. funding is increasingly going toward climate change programs.

Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), who lost his Senate primary to a Tea Party challenger last month, has long been a key advocate for U.S. spending on foreign aid. In a keynote address starting off a three-day conference on development challenges, Lugar strongly defended U.S. spending on foreign assistance, but said he fears more of the funding is being directed to programs devoted to staving off or mitigating global climate change.

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“While foreign assistance investments often require significant time before demonstrating impacts, funding should flow to programs that demonstrate results,” Lugar told the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) Frontiers in Development conference. “I raise this point, because a percentage of foreign assistance funding to some countries is moving away from traditional purposes — including education, food security, and disease prevention — toward climate change.

“I have expressed concerns about individual USAID climate change projects and the growing share of these projects within our development budget.”

Lugar said he was voicing his concerns as “as an ardent friend of USAID and the State Department” and someone who's concerned about the potential impact of climate change but has doubts about the development benefits of such programs.

“My concern simply is that climate change projects are among the least likely to offer measurable development results and the most likely to be politically motivated.”

The Senate Republican also said the Obama administration needs to keep better track of what foreign countries do with U.S. tax dollars.

“We must also embrace transparency in foreign assistance programs,” Lugar said. “We should be forthcoming about where precious taxpayer dollars are spent, what goals they are meant to accomplish, and whether those goals are achieved.”

He applauded the Obama administration's creation of a Foreign Assistance Dashboard to track aid spending and its plans to join the International Aid Transparency Initiative that was launched in 2008. But, he said, those efforts have been “lagging” and “should be accelerated to demonstrate our full commitment to transparency.” 

Lugar also ramped up pressure on the Securities and Exchange Commission to complete delayed rules that would force certain oil, gas and mining companies to disclose payments to foreign governments.

Overall, Lugar reiterated his continued support for foreign aid spending throughout his speech.

“I would assert this morning that development assistance, when properly administered, remains a bargain for U.S. national security and for our own economic and moral standing in the world. Even in the worst of times, the United States remains a wealthy nation with interests in every corner of the globe. Foreign assistance is a key component of the U.S. national security strategy.”