Election Puts Obama Climate Pledge at Risk on Summit Eve

Nov. 7 (Bloomberg) — President Barack Obama’s pledge to
lead a global effort raising $100 billion a year to help poor
nations combat climate change may be an early casualty of the
Republican takeover of Congress.

Lawmakers set to gain roles in setting policy, such as
Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, have questioned spending U.S.
dollars on the effort, a linchpin of efforts to win a global
pact fight global warming. Inhofe, who has decried climate-change science and is the probable next chairman of the Senate
Environment and Public Works Committee, has said the funding is
a misguided foreign-aid effort.

“This is essentially a proposal that has a double bulls-eye on its back for conservatives,” said Robert Stavins,
director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program. “It
combines climate change and foreign aid.”

Obama needs the Republican Congress to approve U.S.
contributions to the effort, conceived five years ago as part of
United Nations-led negotiations on an agreement to cut
greenhouse-gas emissions. The Green Climate Fund, which is just
a part of the larger $100 billion effort, would help poor
nations boost their renewable energy as well as fight flooding
and droughts. A “pledging conference” will be held in Berlin
on Nov. 20, the fund announced today. That’s just 10 days before
a climate summit in Lima.

Republican Pushback

Getting climate funding through a divided Congress was
difficult with Republicans in charge of the House and Democrats
leading the Senate, “but obviously the likelihood is even less
now,” Stavins said. Republicans won enough Senate seats in
elections on Tuesday to reclaim the majority in both houses.

While Obama is committed to international negotiations,
Republicans have sought to limit the efforts by trying, without
success, to strip funding for national and international climate
research and programs.

A “UN climate fund isn’t likely to be on Congress’ to-do
list,” said Jeff Wood, a lawyer at Balch & Bingham and former
Republican staff member on the Senate environment committee.
“The president hasn’t formally asked Congress for it and, after
Tuesday’s election, it seems unlikely that he could ask now with
a straight face.”

Donelle Harder, a spokeswoman for Inhofe, didn’t return
telephone and e-mail messages.

McConnell Effort

Don Stewart, a spokesman for Republican Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who is in line to become majority leader,
said in an e-mail: “On the president’s desire to send the UN a
ton of money, I’ve never heard the leader endorse that
approach.”

McConnell made fighting Obama’s climate effort a main
thrust of his successful re-election campaign this year, and
pledged to push for measures to stop environmental regulations.

The financing is a crucial element to ensure that nations
such as India and China sign on and the UN talks succeed,
Stavins said. A full UN negotiating meeting with more than 190
nations will be held in Lima next month to work on a draft
agreement. Success there is seen as a necessary step to securing
an global accord in Paris next year.

Germany, South Korea and Mexico all made pledges to the
Green Climate Fund, part of the UN climate office, with about
$2.5 billion already promised. Germany and France, with
economies about a fifth the size of the U.S., each promised
about $1 billion. The U.S. hasn’t made its pledge yet.

Raising Funds

Climate activists say the fund needs pledges of government
contributions of $10 billion this year so that overall financing
can reach that annual goal of $100 billion by 2020. The climate
funding would come from public and private sources, as well as
entities such as the World Bank, according to the U.S. State
Department.

“The call for financial support is a perennial part of the
negotiations,” Todd Stern, the U.S. State Department’s climate
envoy, said Oct. 14.

Environmental advocates say when George W. Bush was
president, Republicans in Congress supported financing for
environmental and climate measures, and so they should be
willing to support new funding now.

“There are always fights about climate funding, but the
fact of the matter is that there is quite a lot of climate
funding already,” said David Doniger, the head of climate
programs at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “These are
things the United States can do to unlock commitments from the
very other countries” that lawmakers say they want to see take
action, he told reporters.

Funding Urged

Some Democrats today urged Obama to make a “substantial
pledge” the UN’s fund.

That “may well be a necessary prerequisite for any future
international agreement on climate change,” Senate Foreign
Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez and three other
Senate Democratic leaders wrote in a letter to Obama today.

So far, no Republicans have stood up to make a similar
request.

“President Obama’s administration is quietly handing over
billions of dollars to the United Nations in the name of global
warming,” Inhofe — who calls climate change “The Greatest
Hoax”
— said in a video message after a UN summit in 2012. He
dubbed the fund a “United Nations Green Slush Fund.”

The funding promise made five years ago was one of the few
outcomes from a disastrous meeting in Copenhagen where heads of
state, including Obama, failed to agree on how to advance the
fight against global warming.

For richer nations, the cash they pledge is leverage to
bring the poorer governments into a deal that will restrict
pollution everywhere, unlike the 1997 Kyoto pact that applied
only to industrial nations.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Mark Drajem in Washington at
mdrajem@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Jon Morgan at
jmorgan97@bloomberg.net
Steve Geimann

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