Liberals and conservatives are criticizing a U.N.-backed deal supported by the Biden administration for richer nations to pay reparations to poorer countries for the impacts of climate change.
Attendees of the COP27 climate summit held in Egypt went into overtime last weekend to establish a global “loss and damage” fund. The historic initiative calls for wealthier nations like the U.S. and its allies in Europe to compensate poorer nations that have been most affected by climate change but are among the lowest emitters of greenhouse gases.
The agreement has frustrated the political left and right alike in the U.S.
Climate hawks argue the agreement failed to go far enough because it did not call for phasing out all fossil fuels — only reiterating that the world should wean itself from coal. They also say it delayed many of the thornier decisions, such as how the fund would work and how much should be paid, until next year’s annual conference.
The U.S. and other developed countries have failed to meet a prior pledge to provide $100 billion per year.
Michael Sheldrick of the climate change and poverty advocacy group Global Citizen questioned whether the money will ever come to fruition.
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“We have to ask ourselves: how credible are any new commitments, given the failure to make progress in other key areas? How can we take any of these new commitments seriously given promises that continue to go unmet?” Mr. Sheldrick said in a statement. “COP27 seems to retract on the $100 billion pledge in climate finance, a promise already broken two years in a row.”
Conservatives, meanwhile, suggested it amounted to an international slush fund for richer nations to fork over tens of billions of dollars each year to developing countries.
“Simply put, the United States can’t pay. We could give a few billion dollars now and then, but we’re $31 trillion in debt and face trillion dollar-per-year deficits for the foreseeable future,” said Alex Flint, executive director of the right-leaning economic climate group Alliance for Market Solutions. “Even if we were willing to pay, we simply don’t have the resources, or at least enough to reasonably compensate damages.”
Diana Furchtgott‑Roth, an energy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation and former Department of Transportation official in the Trump administration, argued the deal only further hamstrings poorer countries. As part of a broader agreement, wealthy nations want commitments from poorer ones to slash emissions to help meet the goal of limiting global temperature increases.
“The West should be encouraging all countries to use the most efficient forms of energy,” Ms. Furchtgott‑Roth said. “They can’t get to Western levels of living without conventional fuels: oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear. For us to have these standards of living and then say to other countries ‘you can’t have them’ is selfish and oblivious to the situations these low-income countries are in.”
President Biden has pledged that the U.S. would give $11 billion per year in international climate aid by 2024. But Congress controls the purse strings, not the White House.
The U.S. gave an average of $2.2 billion annually between 2015 and 2018, and a Democratic-controlled Congress earlier this year included $1 billion in foreign climate aid.
With Republicans taking control of the House in January, it’s likely those contributions would be slashed, not increased by more than fourfold.
The Biden administration “probably won’t have much luck with Republicans — and even many Democrats — on that topic in light of the economic challenges facing the U.S.,” Frank Maisano, senior principal at the Washington-based lobbying firm Bracewell, wrote in a note to reporters last week.