John Kerry Says U.S. Will ‘Make Good’ on Climate Finance Pledge

President Joe Biden’s climate envoy John Kerry indicated the U.S. will contribute at least $2 billion to help poor countries deal with the worst effects of climate change, underscoring its commitment to the Paris Agreement.

Kerry told the Climate Adaptation Summit on Monday that the U.S. would “make good” on its climate finance pledge, after President Donald Trump halted key donations during his time in office.

Under former President Barack Obama, the U.S. pledged to contribute $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund, a United Nations program to help developing nations shift to clean energy and deal with the storms and flooding that have been exacerbated by climate change.

Yet the U.S. paid only $1 billion of that before Trump took office in 2017 and pulled the U.S. out of the Paris accord. It hasn’t provided any funding since then, leaving a $2 billion shortfall.

Biden cannot unilaterally contribute the remaining amount. Delivering more money to the Green Climate Fund would require approval from the U.S. Congress. Obama’s funding pledge was met with steep resistance from some U.S. lawmakers even before the coronavirus pandemic battered the economy and spurred major federal spending.

“We reached the point where it is an absolute fact that it is cheaper to invest in preventing damage -- or minimizing it at least -- than cleaning up,” Kerry said. He added that it wasn’t just developing countries facing the impacts of climate change. The U.S spent $265 billion in one year cleaning up the damage done by three storms, he said.

But Biden may need to pledge even more than $2 billion to make up for lost years. Several nations, including France, the U.K. and Germany, have doubled their initial pledges in the past four years. Biden would need to offer another $6 billion to keep pace with their efforts, according to Alden Meyer, a senior associate at the E3G think tank.

Emissions Target

Another condition for rejoining the Paris deal is that the U.S. must set a new 2030 emissions target.

Kerry said the new target would be announced as soon “as practicable.” While he stopped short of saying what the target would be, he repeatedly emphasized the need to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Only a handful of countries so far have set targets that are in line with the 1.5°C limit. The Paris deal includes a target range to limit warming to well below 2°C, striving for 1.5°C.

Kerry has spoken in public at least three times since starting the newly created role of special presidential envoy on climate change last week. Each time, he has signaled the U.S. will increase its climate ambition. In a presentation to the U.S. Conference of Mayors on Sunday, he emphasized that the current climate trajectory is unsustainable.

At Monday’s summit, Kerry said the planet is on a catastrophic track. “We have to raise ambition,” he said, adding that the U.S. has to be a leader driving it.

The Biden administration is also planning to host leaders of some of the world’s biggest emitters at in a climate summit on Earth Day, Bloomberg News reported earlier.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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