Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

There are less than 72 hours left in this Mid-Year Campaign and our independent journalism needs your help today.
If you value our work, please support Common Dreams. This is our hour of need.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.


The sun goes down behind smokestacks in Schwelgern, Germany on June 27, 2019. (Photo: Marcel Kusch/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Climate Critics Warn of 'Big Gaps' in Biden Plan to Eliminate Overseas Fossil Fuel Funding

"It’s time to end government support for all fossil fuels everywhere," said one advocate.

Julia Conley

Climate action groups expressed cautious optimism Friday after the Biden administration unveiled plans to immediately eliminate federal support for overseas fossil fuel projects—answering a demand long made by advocates and lawmakers—but warned that the new policy contains significant loopholes and called on the White House to take further action.

"The loopholes for 'strategic' projects, and the lack of action at home, leave big gaps."

According to a cable sent from administration to officials to U.S. embassies all over the world late last week, and first reported on by Bloomberg Friday, the U.S. for the first time will end federal support for coal terminals, power plants, and other projects.

"Our international energy engagement will center on promoting clean energy, advancing innovative technologies, boosting U.S. clean-tech competitiveness and providing financing and technical assistance to support net-zero transitions around the world," the officials told the embassies.

The move is expected to bring to a halt billions of dollars in annual overseas fossil fuel funding, including an average of $16 billion that went to natural gas projects between 2017 and 2019, according to the International Institute for Sustainable Development.

Jamie Henn, director of Fossil Free Media, credited "years of campaigning" by advocacy groups with pushing President Joe Biden to come to the decision, and called the announcement "a big step forward."

But loopholes in the plan did not go unnoticed by Henn and other advocates. As the Washington Post reported, funding will still be available for projects related to "compelling national security concerns, foreign policy considerations, or the need to expand energy access in vulnerable areas."

"The loopholes for 'strategic' projects, and the lack of action at home, leave big gaps," Henn tweeted. "It’s time to end government support for all fossil fuels everywhere."

Bronwen Tucker, global public finance campaign co-manager for Oil Change International, expressed hope that the exemptions to the new guidance could be "implemented in good faith," in which case the policy "should end almost all U.S. international finance for fossil fuels."

"But if they are poorly interpreted, it could allow up to 61% ($6.9 billion) of U.S. international fossil fuel support since the Paris Agreement to continue," said Tucker. "The U.S. must also be much more ambitious and specific on how it will provide its fair share of climate finance, debt forgiveness, and renewable energy funding abroad to support a just transition."

Advocates also pushed the president to end support for fossil fuel projects in the U.S., including the Enbridge Line 3 and Dakota Access pipelines.

"Taxpayer money should not subsidize the destruction of the planet," said Rep. Nanette Barragan (D-Calif.), who was among the lawmakers who signed a letter in May calling on Biden to end overseas fossil fuel funding. "We also need to repeal fossil fuel subsidies here at home."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Markey, Bowman Join Climate Coalition in Urging SCOTUS Expansion

"We cannot sit idly by," said Markey, "as extremists on the Supreme Court eviscerate the authorities that the government has had for decades to combat climate change and reduce pollution."

Brett Wilkins ·

Ocasio-Cortez Says US 'Witnessing a Judicial Coup in Process'

"It is our duty to check the Court's gross overreach of power in violating people's inalienable rights and seizing for itself the powers of Congress and the president."

Brett Wilkins ·

Critics Say Biden Drilling Bonanza 'Won't Lower Gas Prices' But 'Will Worsen Climate Crisis'

"President Biden's massive public lands giveaway in the face of utter climate catastrophe is just the latest sign that his climate commitments are mere rhetoric," said one campaigner.

Kenny Stancil ·

Grave Warnings as Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Case That Threatens 'Future of Voting Rights'

"Buckle up," implores one prominent legal scholar. "An extreme decision here could fundamentally alter the balance of power in setting election rules in the states and provide a path for great threats to elections."

Brett Wilkins ·

Biden Urged to Take Emergency Action After 'Disastrous' Climate Ruling by Supreme Court

"The catastrophic impact of this decision cannot be understated," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, but "we cannot accept defeat."

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo