Republicans vow to deny Obama climate funds to derail Paris talks

Republicans vow to deny Obama climate funds to derail Paris talks

Republicans are taking aim at a new “Green Climate Fund,” as they look to weaken President Obama’s hand in global climate talks later this month.

The pot of money, a $3 billion climate change pledge the president’s administration made last year, is something officials hope to bring to the negotiating table at United Nations summit in Paris.


But Republicans — hostile to the climate talks and bent on doing whatever they can to derail a deal in Paris next month — say they’re going to deny Obama the first tranche of money he hopes to inject into the fund.

“We pledge that Congress will not allow U.S. taxpayer dollars to go to the Green Climate Fund until the forthcoming international climate agreement is submitted to the Senate for its constitutional advice and consent,” 37 Republican senators wrote in a letter to Obama on Thursday.

The fund, a pool of public and private money, is meant to help poorer nations prepare for climate change.

A Senate appropriations bill cleared the way for the first portion of American funding earlier this year, but Republicans committed this week to blocking it in a final budget deal.

“When it comes to the financing: I know a lot of people over there, the 192 countries, assume that Americans are going to line up and joyfully pay $3 billion into this fund,” said Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain Inhofe Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Overnight Defense: Senators show skepticism over Space Force | Navy drops charges against officers in deadly collision | Trump taps next Navy chief Senators show deep skepticism on Space Force proposal MORE, the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee. “But that’s not going to happen.”

Republicans have looked to throw up obstacles in Obama’s path toward a climate accord, but they do not have a clear way to block it. Unless a deal is deemed to be a treaty requiring Senate ratification, it won’t come before lawmakers for a vote.

But the climate fund, something developing nations have long wanted as part of the climate talks, might give Republicans some leverage — or at least allow them to send a signal to the world about their opposition to a final climate deal.

“It’s important to make clear, I think, to the rest of the world that as these climate talks approach, that Congress has the power of the purse,” Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore Capito20 Dems demand no more money for ICE agents, Trump wall We can accelerate a cure for Alzheimer's Gillibrand, Grassley reintroduce campus sexual assault bill MORE (R-W.Va.) said this week.

In his 2016 budget request, Obama asked lawmakers to provide $500 million for the fund, but House and Senate appropriators have given him nothing. Congress has yet to finalize its 2016 spending plan, though the deadline to do so — Dec. 11 — is the last day of the U.N.’s climate talks, symmetry that may give Republicans a chance to complicate the process.

Earlier this year, Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates More than 30 Senate Dems ask Trump to reconsider Central American aid cuts Long-shot goal of nixing Electoral College picks up steam MORE (D-Ore.) inserted a provision into a Senate appropriations bill giving the State Department the right to contribute to the Green Climate Fund using its own budget, without prior congressional approval.

That amendment won bipartisan support in committee, but it must now survive funding negotiations ahead of a looming deadline.

“I think the position taken by the Senate Appropriations Committee, which was a bipartisan vote to provide funds, is the right position and I hope it will prevail in conference,” Merkley said on Thursday.

An Obama administration official said that the White House is “monitoring” the status of the fund in spending negotiations.

International climate negotiators launched the Green Climate Fund in 2009 with the goal of providing $100 billion a year in financing for poor countries by 2020. U.N. administrators funded its first round of projects earlier this month, providing $168 million for infrastructure upgrades, wetland improvements and other proposals in South America, Africa and Asia.

Merkley said the fund is designed to show that developed world — which has emitted most of the greenhouse gases driving climate change — is committed to addressing the problem now by supporting poorer countries’ efforts to convert to clean energy or otherwise contain the impact of climate change.

“The financing is important because the nations that are very poor, that are seeing these consequences, are saying well, we’re going to get involved now, but help us take on these consequences that weren’t of our making,” he said. “You all were the primary causers, help us out with the real problems we’re having.”

Developing countries have said the fund is critical to a climate deal in Paris.

“It’s a very large part of their negotiating positions,” said Robert Stavins, director of the Harvard University Project on Climate Agreements. “They will hold out — the developing countries will hold out — on anything they can, such as the $100 billion, to get as much money as they can.”

But Stavins said Republican threats against the fund likely won’t push countries away from the negotiating table.

And even if Republicans can block federal financing for the Green Climate Fund, he said, it won’t doom a climate accord. Other countries have contributed funding, the private sector is pitching in heavily, and the centerpiece of any deal would be countries’ carbon emission reduction goals — not funding.

Either way, Democrats on Capitol Hill say they’re confident Republicans will back down from their threats against the fund.

Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Hispanic civil rights icon endorses Harris for president California AG Becerra included in Bloomberg 50 list MORE (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said Thursday that she expects Republicans won’t have the will to back out of commitments the U.S. has made to an international project that is already moving forward.

“It’s already in progress, and it would have to be a herculean effort for Republicans to stop it,” she said. “It’s already in existence, the fund. It would be really difficult to try and take us back.”

But top Republicans — looking for whatever leverage they can find on a climate accord — have promised to hold out.

“Congress will weigh in on whatever comes out of the Paris climate talks, and the money that the president has requested as part of his budget,” Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOvernight Energy: Gillibrand offers bill to ban pesticide from school lunches | Interior secretary met tribal lawyer tied to Zinke casino dispute | Critics say EPA rule could reintroduce asbestos use GOP senator issues stark warning to Republicans on health care Judd Gregg: In praise of Mike Enzi MORE (R-Wyo.) said at a GOP leadership press conference this week. “Congress will have a say.”