Senators approve bill to block international climate funding

Source: Amanda Reilly, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Senate appropriators today advanced a fiscal 2017 spending plan for the State Department and federal foreign operations that would restrict funding for international climate change efforts.

According to summaries of the draft bill made available this afternoon, the legislation would bar any federal funding for the U.N. fund to help poor countries mitigate and adapt to climate change.

The bill would also weaken policies by the Export-Import Bank of the United States, Overseas Private Investment Corp. or World Bank to limit financing of coal-fired power plants.

The State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Subcommittee swiftly approved the measure this afternoon on a voice vote without amendment. Lawmakers will likely offer amendments during tomorrow’s full committee markup.

In a statement, subcommittee ranking member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said there were “serious shortfalls” in the bill’s spending levels but called the draft legislation “balanced” overall.

“There are also some provisions that I and other Democrats disagree with,” Leahy said. “But while I expect there will be modifications to some provisions going forward, on the whole, the bill is balanced.”

A summary issued by committee Democrats lists the rider barring funding for the U.N. Green Climate Fund first among a few “poison pill riders” in the bill.

“Not only will this derail efforts to mitigate climate change impacts in the world’s most vulnerable countries,” the Democratic summary says, “it hurts U.S. clean energy companies that are poised to benefit from exports and investments financed by the GCF.”

The Obama administration had requested a total of $750 million in appropriations for the GCF in fiscal 2017, of which $500 million would come from the State Department.

In all, President Obama has promised the international community that the United States would provide $3 billion for the U.N. fund over the next four years.

Earlier this year, the State Department made a $500 million down payment on that amount, but GOP critics complained that the administration did not have the authority to provide the funding without specific congressional appropriations.

Recently, critics in the Senate have said that Palestine’s membership in the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change bars the United States from providing any more funding for either the GCF or the UNFCCC.

The GCF, however, has some Republican support in the Senate. Last year, Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) successfully introduced an amendment to the State and Foreign Operations spending bill that stripped out language barring funding for the GCF. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) joined Democrats in voting for the amendment.

House Republican appropriators are also aiming to use their fiscal 2017 spending plan for State to block money for the GCF. A draft bill released in the House last week would also not fund the UNFCCC.

It was not immediately clear how much money the Senate version bill would provide for the UNFCCC or the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.