America’s top politician – Joe Biden – announced on New Year’s Day that if elected president, he would commit $11 billion over the next decade to a global climate fund that could help poorer countries cope with the effects of global warming.
This put the US among the biggest donors of climate aid to the developing world, though overall pledges remain far below previous pledges by developed countries to help poorer countries cut greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change impacts.
Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, which are seen as the main driver of climate change, were up by 0.8 parts per million from the pre-industrial era to 39.3 parts per million in 2015, the UN Environmental Program said in September.
That is expected to rise to 50 parts per million this year and beyond by the end of the century if emissions are not reduced.
“So what I’m proposing is simply unprecedented,” Biden told The Washington Post . “I’ve never had a country put their own money on the line on such a large scale before,” Biden told the Post.
“And if it would push other countries to come forward and put a fair share of their money on the line too, we could collectively do more than we have been able to collectively do.”
The National Geographic Channel recently released a new documentary on climate change produced by the former vice president.
See the trailer here.
What are the conditions for Biden’s proposal?
Here’s a breakdown of the conditions for Biden’s proposal to be as successful as recent US climate promises:
1. The principles for the fund are spelled out in the UN’s Paris Agreement, which includes rules on contributions, transparency and how to monitor a country’s progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The plan has historically been very permissive, says Ken Caldeira, a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution at Stanford University who served on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as an author and director of a report that was released last year.
Biden announced his pledge at the Paris climate summit in November 2015 as US President Barack Obama. After the agreement was signed the following year, Obama said the country would donate $3 billion over five years to the Green Climate Fund and nearly tripled support to the fund to $10 billion over three years.
A pledge like Biden’s would mean countries must specify and specifically pledge how much they will contribute, and whether they’re going to use it for climate or other development programs, as the US is now doing.
2. It would likely take a significant investment from the public sector and private sector to get the project up and running, experts say.
Biden already outlined a commitment to lead the fund with $4 billion of his own money, according to the Post.
1 Million Years has previously reported that the International Finance Corporation, which the US government funds as part of its economic stimulus program, wants $4 billion in funding for its climate strategy, but these are provisional amounts.
3. Unless funding from other sources is included, the proposed donation would barely cover commitments to the Green Climate Fund as laid out by the US.
Fourteen countries, accounting for roughly 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions, have said they’ll contribute to the fund, according to the Fund.
But that covers only $1.5 billion out of $9 billion pledged. (Countries accounting for approximately 25% of global emissions have not agreed to pledge to the fund.)
4. While the pledges are good, they only put more money in the long-term, not help meet immediate needs.
Unlike the Clean Development Mechanism that permitted US companies to earn carbon credits when they invested in developing countries, the Climate Change Fund’s more immediate goals are to provide aid for poverty alleviation, scientific and technology development, and energy subsidies and adaptation and mitigation efforts.
What are some of the biggest hurdles preventing the idea being implemented?
Investments will likely be key, said the Post.
And the “good news is that this has never been tested” in an election, Carole Pinckard, an economist at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change told The Post .