This week, President Obama took aim at the two biggest barriers to an international climate change treaty next year in Paris.
First, the US-China agreement on climate change – which shows the two biggest polluters are at the table – and now, a substantial US commitment to the all-important Green Climate Fund – the main issue for developing countries.
Obama plans to unveil a $3 billion pledge to the Green Climate Fund at the G20 summit this weekend, to be paid over the next four years. The US contribution is conditional however – it’s capped at 30% of the fund, and the full amount will only be paid if other nations step up to the plate – meeting the fund’s initial $10 billion target.
Good luck getting approval for the money from Republicans in Congress, even though President GW Bush pledged $2 billion during his administration.
The Fund is intended to help developing countries ramp clean energy technologies, stop deforestation, and adapt to changes in the climate that they are not responsible for. The goal is to provide $100 billion a year to developing countries by 2020.
Contributions have been anemic so far, the biggest are $1 billion each from France and Germany. Japan is expected to pledge $1.5 billion at the G20 summit. Canada and Australia – which have turned into climate outliers – say they won’t contribute, with the latter’s prime minister calling it "socialism masquerading as environmentalism."
On November 20, there will be a "pledging conference" in Berlin, when the UK says it will make an announcement. The United Nations wants to raise $10 billion by the end of the year.
Berlin "is a good litmus test for Lima, because finance is really half of the equation to getting a climate deal," Karen Orenstein, a senior analyst at Friends of the Earth, told InsideClimate News. "It’s like dominos. This is the first domino, and in order to get everything to fall in the right place, you have to start here."
She is referring to the next Climate Summit in Peru, which takes place in December, as a run-up to the finale in Paris next year.
"It is in our national interest to help vulnerable countries to build resilience to climate change," says a White House official. "More resilient communities are less likely to descend into instability or conflict in the aftermath of extreme climate events, needing more costly interventions to restore stability and rebuild. Building resilience also helps safeguard our investments in many areas, including food security, health, education and economic growth."
Earlier this year, 30 countries pledged a total of $4 billion to help developing countries tackle a broad range of environmental problems: climate change, deforestation, land degradation, extinction of species, toxic chemicals and waste, and threats to oceans and freshwater resources.