The move, announced just three days before the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, brings the total support from the United States to the fund to $1 billion and solidifies Obama’s efforts to combat the phenomenon during his administration, which he has called the greatest long-term threat facing the world.
Obama pledged in 2014 to contribute $3 billion in total funding by the end of the decade, despite deep opposition from Republicans in Congress. But the president was able to circumvent congressional approval, and both this payment and last year’s were funded through the State Department.
The Green Climate Fund was established in 2010 by the United Nations as a means to help developing nations cope with climate change and its effects. It’s helped fund projects ranging from climate-resistant agriculture to sustainable energy, with a focus on adaption initiatives.
“The GCF supports developing nations in their efforts to achieve those objectives and to become more resilient to climate change ― in turn, reducing the global and national security risks associated with inadequate adaptation to and preparedness for extreme weather events and other climate related impacts,” the State Department said in a news release announcing Tuesday’s payment.
The initiative hopes to raise $100 billion by 2020 through public and private funding. So far, 43 countries have pledged about $10 billion of that sum, including contributions of $1 billion or more from Japan, the United Kingdom, France and Germany.
It’s unclear if such payments from America will continue under a Trump presidency, but such support seems unlikely. The president-elect has called climate change a hoax manufactured by the Chinese and threatened to end all government funding to combat global warming. He’s also said he hoped to withdraw the U.S. from the landmark Paris climate deal.
But despite those threats, the White House’s continued support drew widespread praise.
“I commend the Administration for making this contribution, which has bipartisan support in the Senate,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said in a statement. “It will help give us a ‘seat at the table’ in future climate change negotiations which even president-elect Trump’s nominee to be Secretary of State endorsed as part of our nation’s global leadership.”
Advocacy groups also applauded the announcement and called on Congress to continue its support.
“Recent GCF funding has gone to Pacific islands to help them deploy renewable energy, to Uganda and Sri Lanka to cope with drought, and to Rwanda and Kenya to roll out household solar energy,” Joe Thwaites, an associate at the World Resources Institute, said in a release. “The U.S. has now delivered one-third of its $3 billion pledge to the GCF. We call on Congress to fulfill the remainder of the pledge in the coming years.”
The State Department announced a second payment of $500 million to the Green Climate Fund on Tuesday.
Obama gives $500 million to climate fund over GOP objections
With just three days left in office, the Obama administration has doubled an initial $500 million commitment to a fund that helps developing nations fight climate change and adapt to its consequences.
The incoming Trump administration and some Republicans oppose the program.
The State Department's announcement Tuesday brings U.S. contributions to the Green Climate Fund to $1 billion since 2016. The fund helps poor countries reduce carbon emissions by promoting clean energy and spurring private investment in the field.
"This administration has committed to this fund, in fact helped stand it up, establish it," State Department spokesman John Kirby said. "And it is entirely in keeping with the work that we've been doing across the interagency to try to look for ways to stem the effects of climate change, and this fund helps other economies, other countries develop their own initiatives and help them deal with this."
Obama promised a total of $3 billion to the fund in 2014 as part of the Paris climate change accord, but it is far from certain that full amount will be pledged.
President-elect Donald Trump and a number of GOP lawmakers have complained that support for the fund wasn't specifically approved by Congress. The administration argues the current fiscal year's budget allows it to take the money from an unobligated portion of a total of $4.3 billion in economic support fund assistance. The previous $500 million installment was made in the same way.
Obama Administration Sending $500 Million to Global Climate Change Fund
The Obama administration announced Tuesday it is funneling $500 million to a global fund to address climate change, one of the final acts President Barack Obama is taking to preserve his environmental legacy and the U.S.’s role in an international climate agreement.
Senate Democrats praised the administration’s move, which was announced by the State Department.
President-elect Donald Trump said on the campaign trail he would stop all U.S. aid to global climate efforts.
Mr. Obama has pledged $3 billion to the fund, but until Tuesday, his administration had only committed $500 million, an initial tranche of money sent in March 2016. The additional $500 million comes from the State Department’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget, according to a spokesman for Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.), a senior Democrat on the Senate appropriations committee.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said the fund is “a critical tool” and said the Obama administration remains committed to the fund.
“It’s not being done to try to provoke a reaction from the incoming administration or to try to dictate to them one way or another how they are going to deal with climate issues,” Mr. Kirby said, adding that the investment had been long-planned.
The global climate fund is part of a broader international effort to address climate change, including a 2015 deal agreed to by nearly 200 countries in Paris. Mr. Trump has said he would withdraw the U.S. from that deal, though since the election he said he would have an open mind to staying in it.
Mr. Leahy pointed to a comment by Rex Tillerson , Mr. Trump’s pick to head the State Department, at his recent confirmation hearing. Mr. Tillerson, who until recently was CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp., said the U.S. would be better served staying in the deal than withdrawing, and that climate change was a threat that should be addressed.
“I commend the administration for making this contribution,” Mr. Leahy said in a statement. “It will help give us a ‘seat at the table’ in future climate change negotiations which even President—elect Trump’s nominee to be Secretary of State endorsed as part of our nation’s global leadership.”
A request for comment to Mr. Trump’s transition team wasn't immediately returned.