A Climate Change Battleground

In our recent blog “A Seat at the Table” we speculated how US actions under Donald Trump would impact the international infrastructure under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

In his last days in office, President Obama approved payment of $500 million to the UN Green Climate Fund (GCF) that was established to help developing countries reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change. This payment is the first installment of $3 billion pledged by the US in 2015.

In announcing the payment, a State Department spokesman referred to the GCF as a channel of 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 a transition to a lower carbon economy.”

In his presidential campaign Trump promised to cancel future payments to the GCF, a promise that had the full support of Republicans, who now control the US Congress. Given Trump’s scepticism about climate change, he will give consideration to recovering the money paid to the GCF on Obama’s authority!

However, it will be difficult – if not impossible – for Trump to claw back this payment from the United Nations. Besides any actions to recover this payment would give rise to worldwide hostility (Russia excepted) towards the US and its new representative at COP meetings, Rex Tillerson.

Tillerson has another problem: he was the Chief Executive of that arch villain of fossil fuel companies, Exxon-Mobile. Given this background, he will have a difficult time persuading other delegates to accommodate US interests.  Admittedly, Trump may be indifferent to these consequences, as they will give him an argument that the US should withdraw completely from participating in the UNFCCC.  Disengaging from the Kyoto Protocol – as Canada did in 2012 – is not difficult.

Trump wishes to reduce government spending and regards the UNFCCC as an unnecessary fiscal burden. Trump proposes the elimination of international barriers to free trade. The UNFCCC agenda for reducing emissions has the potential to be a serious limitation on free trade. The battle will very soon be joined.




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