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Sophie Austin
By Sophie Austin July 15, 2020

UN climate spending is less than under Obama, but still significant

The words "climate change" or "global warming" didn't appear in President Donald Trump's federal budget proposals for fiscal years 2019-21. In Trump's proposal for fiscal year 2018, the administration said it would stop United Nations payments for climate change programs.

But it's Congress that determines the final budget every year, and its budget bills have continued contributions to international climate mitigation efforts, though not as much as when President Barack Obama was in office.

For fiscal year 2020, Congress allotted $6.4 million for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, according to the World Resources Institute. By comparison, the U.S. provided $10 million annually for the panel and treaty before fiscal year 2016. Congress' budget bill also stopped contributions to the Green Climate Fund, which the U.N. FCCC launched in 2010 to financially support climate mitigation efforts in developing countries.

Michigan Technological University chemistry professor Sarah Green, former co-chair of a U.N. environmental report science advisory panel, said in an email that there is no enforcement mechanism for countries honoring pledges to UN climate change efforts.

"U.N. agencies are used to countries suddenly discovering other priorities after announcing support," Green said. "The only real mechanism is shaming on the international stage."

For example, Obama pledged $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund, but the U.S. only delivered $1 billion.

In 2017, Trump announced his plans to remove the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, a treaty aimed at keeping a global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The treaty has support from nearly 200 countries. 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the U.S. was beginning the withdrawal process on Nov. 4, 2019, the first day a country was allowed to start the process and three years after the treaty went into effect. However, it takes another year for the formal withdrawal to take place, which would be the day after the 2020 election.

The Trump administration continues to push for cuts to U.N. climate mitigation efforts. Congress has allocated less funding than the U.S. contributed under Obama, but contributions continue to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

We rate this promise Compromise.

Our Sources

PolitiFact, Trump shuts spigot for Green Climate Fund, but Senate panel keeps other funding alive, December 15, 2017

Email interview with Sarah Green, chemistry professor at Michigan Technological University, July 8, 2020

World Resources Institute, 2020 Budget Shows Progress on Climate Finance, But US Continues to Fall Behind Peers, January 30, 2020

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC Core Fund - Status of Contributions, May 31, 2020

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Report on the Conference of the Parties on its sixteenth session, March 15, 2011

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, On the Possibility to Withdraw from the Paris Agreement: A Short Overview, June 14, 2017

Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson December 15, 2017

Trump shuts spigot for Green Climate Fund, but Senate panel keeps other funding alive

During the 2016 presidential campaign, President Donald Trump said he would be "canceling billions in climate change spending for the United Nations."

When Trump announced that the United States would pull out of the Paris climate agreement in a speech at the White House on June 1, 2017, he added that he would also stop United States funding of United Nations global warming programs.

In one significant way, Trump has achieved his goal. Under President Barack Obama, the United States had sent the first $1 billion of a $3 billion pledge to the Green Climate Fund, which finances clean-energy and climate-adaptation efforts in nations countries facing challenges from climate change.

Under Trump, additional payments to the fund have not been forthcoming. Trump said in his White House speech that as needs at home go unmet, money from this fund "will be sent to the very countries and factories that have taken our jobs."

However, it's worth noting that Trump lost a round in an effort to cut another type of United Nations climate change funding.

On Sept. 7, 2017, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amendment that would restore full U.S. funding for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Despite pulling out of the Paris agreement, the U.S. belongs to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate. Meanwhile, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a United Nations committee that studies climate science. The amendment would continue funding for both entities.

Despite facing headwinds from most Republicans on the committee, Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee joined all committee Democrats except for West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin to support the amendment, which was sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. The amendment passed 16-14.

The amendment added $10 million to the 2018 State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill earmarked for the two United Nations affiliates, "bringing funding levels in line with recent U.S. support for those institutions," Merkley said in a statement after the vote.

The appropriations bill has not advanced through the full Senate yet, and once it does, it would still need to be reconciled with the equivalent House bill and signed by the president. So it's possible that the final bill will strip the climate change funding inserted by Merkley's amendment.

For now, Trump has chalked up one victory by shutting down U.S. funding for the Global Climate Fund, but he's also suffered a defeat -- at least for now -- in the effort to strip funding for two United Nations climate change entities. We rate this promise a Compromise.

Our Sources

Reuters, "Defying Trump, Senate panel approves funding for U.N. climate body," Sept. 8, 2017

The Economist, "New life for the Paris climate deal," Dec. 14, 2017

Jeff Merkley, "Merkley Leads Successful Amendment to Restore UN Climate Change Funding" (news release), Sept. 7, 2017

Email interview with Lynn Scarlett, co-chief external affairs officer at the Nature Conservancy, Dec. 14, 2017

Email interview with Jeremy Symons, vice president for political affairs at the Environmental Defense Fund, Dec. 14, 2017

Email interview with Heather Coleman, climate and energy director for Oxfam America, Dec. 14, 2017

Email interview with Jesse Young, senior advisor on climate and energy at Oxfam America, Dec. 14, 2017

By Gabrielle Healy March 29, 2017

Budget proposal would cease payments to U.N. climate initiatives

President Donald Trump's 2018 budget blueprint includes a proposal to zero out funding for United Nations climate change programs.

The Trump budget, released March 16, seeks to "eliminate the Global Climate Change Initiative" and "cease payments to the United Nations' (UN) climate change programs by eliminating U.S. funding related to the Green Climate Fund and its two precursor Climate Investment Funds."

The Global Climate Change Initiative integrates U.S. foreign assistance to climate change mitigation efforts. The Green Climate Fund supports developing countries in their efforts to address climate change. Last year, the Obama administration contributed at least $500 million dollars to the Green Climate Fund, part of $3 billion dollars in financial commitments the United States made during the 2015 climate talks in Paris.

Trump said he wants to redirect the money "to provide for American infrastructure, including clean water, clean air, and safety," although the budget does not clarify how that goal might be achieved.

Trump's budget proposal covered federal discretionary spending. It included large cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, the State Department and Agriculture Department. The budget included a 10-percent increase in defense spending, and a 7-percent increase in Homeland Security funding. Although Congress writes and passes a budget, a budget blueprint is a proposal of the president's budget priorities.

How much of the president's budget proposal will make it into the final budget isn't clear yet. Last year, a Republican Congress disregarded President Barack Obama's budget proposal. Changes to the budget from the executive branch are possible because the blueprint is partial. For now, we rate Trump's promise to cut climate change funding to the U.N. as In the Works.

Our Sources

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