In last days, Obama administration transfers $500 million to UN climate action fund

The announcement is expected to prompt a backlash.

A woman works her computer at the Green Climate Fund stand at the COP21, United Nations Climate Change Conference, Monday, Nov. 30, 2015 in Le Bourget, north of Paris. CREDIT: AP Photo/Michel Euler
A woman works her computer at the Green Climate Fund stand at the COP21, United Nations Climate Change Conference, Monday, Nov. 30, 2015 in Le Bourget, north of Paris. CREDIT: AP Photo/Michel Euler

The State Department announced Tuesday it would transfer $500 million to the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund (GCF), likely irking Republican lawmakers while keeping what commitments it can to the international community before President-elect Donald Trump takes office on Friday.

“The Green Climate Fund is a critical tool that helps catalyze billions of dollars in public and private investment, in countries dealing not only with the challenges of climate change, but the immense economic opportunities that are embedded in the transition to a lower-carbon economy,” a spokesman said.

Under President Obama, the United States pledged $3 billion to the fund, which supports low-carbon and resilience projects in developing nations. Environmental groups and a network of faith-based groups applauded the decision, which brings the total U.S. contributions so far to $1 billion.

But it’s not clear if the other $2 billion will ever appear.

Trump has pledged to cut all spending to international climate projects, including payments to the UN fund. His transition team has also questioned how much money the State Department spends on environmental issues abroad.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, applauded the announcement.

“I thank President Obama for establishing America as a world leader on the frontlines of climate action and taking another major stride toward fulfilling America’s $3 billion commitment to the fund,” Merkley said in a statement. “This contribution shows that even as we face an incoming Administration that engages in dangerous climate denial, those of us in the United States who believe in taking action to save our planet, our economy, and our future will continue doing everything in our power to move forward.”

Merkley fought in 2015 to allow contributions to the fund, after Republicans proposed a bill that would prohibit U.S. participation. In March 2016, the State Department gave its first tranche of $500 million — and opponents went nuts.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee even held a hearing about whether the department was authorized to disburse the money. A spokesperson told the senators that State Department lawyers had reviewed the decision and determined that it was fine.

The authorization still stands, according to Merkley’s office.