Very early yesterday morning, while most of us were sleeping, the House Appropriations Committee released the detailed spending bill, H.R. 1473, that implements the three-way agreement among President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year ending in September.
As has been widely reported, the deal cuts some $38 billion from Fiscal Year 2010 (FY10) budget levels and nearly $79 billion from the President’s budget proposal last year. But what does this mean for U.S. commitments to international climate finance?
Well, there’s good news and bad news.
First the good news: The FY11 spending bill negotiated over the weekend and into Monday is a marked improvement over H.R. 1. It avoids zeroing out some key programs and eliminates many of the more noxious riders found in H.R. 1 (such as defunding America’s climate negotiator and his office).
But there is also some not so great news: The bill halts the growth in climate-related international investments promised by President Obama’s FY11 budget proposal, and cuts some programs from their FY10 levels. Overall it appears that U.S. core funding for international climate activities could fall by some 5 to 25 percent from FY10 levels, and by more than 30 percent from the President’s original FY11 proposed levels.
Most likely, both the House and Senate will pass this bill this week. Then it will be up to the administration to decide where to set its priorities. We hope that the administration will continue these important investments. And, we’re not the only ones…
For just one example, across the world at the UN climate meetings in Bangkok, Thailand last week, The Nature Conservancy caught up with Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Founder and Executive Director of Tebtebba Foundation, the Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education. Check out the 2-minute video below. Victoria talks about how important it is for the United States to maintain its international climate investments so that indigenous people in the Philippines and all over the world can help tackle the climate change challenge — particularly when it comes to reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD).
As noted previously, these programs are just 3 cents out of every $100 in the U.S. federal budget; while the fiscal implications are small, the on-the-ground impacts can be significant.
Here is some more detail regarding the good news and bad news on some of the key elements relevant to international climate change efforts.
• The U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) overall development assistance programs fared relatively well, continuing at FY10 levels. This keeps the door open for the administration to continue investing in protecting biodiversity, conserving forests and promoting sustainable land use, building community resistance to climate disasters and damage, and supporting international clean energy programs in Brazil, Indonesia, and other developing countries. In FY10, USAID was approved to invest more than $500 million in these efforts.
• A number of the programs for conserving biodiversity have multiple climate-related benefits. These programs could – and should – continue at FY10 levels of $205 million, with administration support.
• Funding for the Tropical Forest Conservation Act, eliminated in the original funding bill from the House (H.R. 1), is maintained, though it may be cut slightly.
U.S. contributions to several key multilateral (three or more nations working together on a common issue) programs are cut significantly (though less than the cuts in H.R. 1). These include:
• The Strategic Climate Fund, which includes investments in the Forest Investment Program and the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR) – cut by nearly 80 percent from the president’s request to one-third below FY10 enacted levels. The Forest Investment Program is helping countries address carbon pollution and creating sustainable economic development opportunities through forest conservation, and the PPCR has been supporting efforts to enhance coastal resilience in Bangladesh.
• The high-leverage Global Environment Facility. U.S. contributions will be funded at just shy of $90 million, nearly 40 percent below the level of funding to which the U.S. committed just last year. This risks embarrassing the U.S. for failing to meet its commitments.
• The Clean Technology Fund supporting clean energy projects in developing countries. U.S. investments in this program are cut by nearly 40 percent from last year’s levels.
• Contributions to the UN’s international climate change programs, including the organization that provides credible international science (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) are cut by nearly 30 percent from the president’s request.
• Will the U.S. be able to meet its commitment to invest $1 billion in reducing emissions from deforestation by 2012? With the right spending choices for fiscal years 2011 and 2012, this promise could still be fulfilled.
Eric Haxthausen is director of U.S. climate policy for The Nature Conservancy
photo by: flickr user Garrett M. Clarke Photography (Sri Lanka – Vedda). Used under Creative Commons license.
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