by Rebecca Lefton
The most anti-environmental House of Representatives in history is at it again.
Yesterday, the House Foreign Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee passed the 2013 foreign operations budget, which for a second year in a row cut entire programs crucial for helping developing countries address climate change impacts and advance on a low-emission economic trajectory.
The conservative belief that cutting international climate investments will solve national budget and debt problems simply makes the problem more expensive for us down the road. These cuts are bad for our national security, risk our international credibility, and endanger our planet and future generations.
So what does the House bill do?
- The World Bank multilateral Climate Investment Funds that the George W. Bush administration established — consisting of the Strategic Climate Fund, the Clean Technology Fund, and the Forest Investment Program — are completely absent. That’s bad financial investment policy. The Clean Technology Fund, which helps to scale up clean energy technology in large-emitting developing countries, leverages around $8 in co-financing from multilateral development banks, governments, and the private sector for every $1 invested.
- Funding for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — a body of scientists that studies the risk of human-induced climate change — is eliminated.
- USAID’s operating expenses are cut 5 percent below FY 2012 enacted levels.
- The Global Environment Facility, the main funder of international global warming projects, was cut to $64.7 million. In 2012 President Obama requested $143.7 million for the fund.
As the Center for American Progress has recommended, directing a mix of public and private resources to international climate finance will be a cost-effective way to fulfill our global emissions reductions pledges. The only way to achieve our goals for climate stabilization is to help developing countries grow in a more sustainable way by using lower-carbon or zero-carbon energy sources.
International climate funding also creates opportunities for investments by U.S. companies that deliver the programs that capture these pollution reductions.
These cuts put the U.S. in a dangerous position, and they reflect a paralyzing ideological divide among parties. Indiana Senator Dick Lugar — a conservative who worked across party lines to address climate change — recently lamented the way his party is attacking the issue. In a statement after his defeat to a climate-denying Tea Partier, Lugar warned:
“I don’t remember a time when so many topics have become politically unmentionable in one party or the other. Republicans cannot admit to any nuance in policy on climate change….Our political system is losing its ability to even explore alternatives. If fealty to these pledges continues to expand, legislators may pledge their way into irrelevance. Voters will be electing a slate of inflexible positions rather than a leader.”
Senator Lugar was an original sponsor of the Tropical Forest Conservation Act supporting debt-for-nature swaps that allow developing countries to relieve debt owed to the United States by conserving and protecting forests.
Meanwhile, other countries are stepping up their international climate aid. Rather than having conversations about whether to pay for international climate aid at all, other world leaders are discussing about how to ramp up their commitments.
It’s now up to the Senate to help get the budget on the right path by restoring our international financial commitment to combating climate change.
Rebecca Lefton is a Policy Analyst with the International Climate Team at the Center for American Progress