The Obama administration on Tuesday sent another $500 million to the Green Climate Fund, which was established as part of the Paris climate agreement to collect aid from wealthy countries to help frontline nations adapt to the impacts of global warming.
The contribution marks one of President Barack Obama's last moves before leaving office and handing the presidency to an administration staffed largely by climate deniers. It's the second $500 million check the U.S. State Department gave to the fund, culled from the fiscal year 2016 Economic Support Fund appropriation. The fund aims to attain $100 billion by 2020, with the U.S. pledging $3 billion alone.
Green groups had long pressured Obama to contribute the remainder of the U.S. pledge before Trump takes office. The landmark Paris treaty is one of many Obama-era achievements on President-elect Donald Trump's proverbial chopping block, although he has waffled on his stance on the agreement, which seeks to limit global warming to 2°C.
While the administration has yet to fulfill its $3 billion vow, environmental groups and Democratic lawmakers applauded Tuesday's contribution, warning that the incoming administration should avoid turning it into a political issue.
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"Republicans in Congress should never have made it so difficult for the world's wealthiest country to assist the world's poor as they struggle daily to feed their families and make ends meet on a warming planet," said Karen Orenstein, U.S. deputy director of economic policy at Friends of the Earth. "The incoming Trump administration and Congress must not play politics with the moral and legal obligation of the U.S. to provide assistance through the Green Climate Fund for those whose lives and livelihoods are today being devastated by climate change."
"This must not be twisted into some kind of game to score anti-science political points; the health, well-being and even survival of children and their families are at stake here," Orenstein said. "We do not know what the Trump team is planning for the Green Climate Fund in 2017, but if it is not prepared to play a constructive role, then it should play no role at all."
Tamar Lawrence-Samuel, of Corporate Accountability International, also welcomed the move. "The Obama administration is refusing to let President-elect Trump’s posse of oil barons and climate deniers dictate how the world responds to the climate crisis," Lawrence-Samuel said. "Tens of thousands of people around the world called on President Obama to step up before Trump takes the keys of our government and tries to reverse decades of climate progress. This victory is the climate justice movement’s opening salvo to the Trump presidency. And we’re not going away."
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee and the State Subcommittee, said, "I commend the administration for making this contribution, which has bipartisan support in the Senate. It will help give us a 'seat at the table' in future climate change negotiations which even President–elect Trump's nominee to be secretary of state endorsed as part of our nation's global leadership."