John Kerry

John Kerry, United States special presidential envoy for climate, attends the formal opening of the UN Climate Change Conference on November 30, 2023 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

(Photo: Mahmoud Khaled / COP28 via Getty Images)

US Pledge to Loss and Damage Fund Called 'Insulting... Paltry... Shameful'

"The United States refuses to acknowledge historic responsibility for the decades of damage that has been done to communities bearing the brunt of climate change and the fossil fuel industry," said one advocate.

Climate justice advocates, outraged over the inadequate funding that was pledged to the "loss and damage" fund as the United Nations Climate Change Conference opened this week, reserved particular disdain on Friday for the United States delegation and its refusal to contribute a meaningful amount to the fund.

The Climate Justice Alliance said the U.S. contribution of just $17.5 million for the loss and damage fund—a tiny fraction of the nearly $900 billion President Joe Biden requested for his military budget earlier this year and the annual fossil fuel subsidies distributed by the U.S. government—sent a clear message to the Global South: that "the U.S. is completely uninterested in prioritizing or being accountable to the climate impacts frontline communities are facing."

"The amount pledged by the United States is insulting," said Bineshi Albert, co-executive director of the organization. "It is a paltry, shameful amount of money... By comparison, island nations have requested at least $100 billion over the first four years."

The sum also made clear that the Biden administration is following through on Special Presidential Climate Envoy John Kerry's remarks at a hearing in July, in which he said that "under no circumstances" would the U.S. provide funding to countries in the Global South that are increasingly facing prolonged droughts, rising sea levels, and severe storms, among other climate impacts as a result of planetary heating.

"The United States refuses to acknowledge historic responsibility for the decades of damage that has been done to communities bearing the brunt of climate change and the fossil fuel industry," said Albert.

The U.S. is by far the largest historic emitter of planet-heating emissions, while many countries that are already facing the worst impacts of the climate emergency, such as small Pacific island nations, shoulder the least blame for the crisis.

Albert called the $17.5 million pledged by the U.S. "a drop in the bucket compared to the annual $20.5 billion in fossil fuel subsidies handed out by the US government, which recently surged to $7 trillion in 2022."

To help governments in the Global South rebuild damaged communities, prevent further destruction, and relocate displaced people, developing countries have said they will ultimately need about $400 billion annually.

$17.5 million "is not only ineffective to address these harms and injustices but it is minuscule compared to the hundreds of billions in loan, grants, and tax breaks available from the Inflation Reduction Act to corporations to further build out or prolong the life of fossil fuel infrastructure and energy intensive fuels like hydrogen," said Albert.

She added that it is not lost on advocates that the U.S. government pushed for contributions to the loss and damage fund to be voluntary: "another clear sign that the United States does not take responsibility for its harmful past actions nor does it consider the needs of the most impacted and marginalized communities seriously."

With contributions from other wealthy governments ranging from just $10 million (Japan) to $245 million (the European Union), Amnesty International climate adviser Ann Harrison said wealthy countries committed "barely enough to get the fund running, and little more."

"Billions of dollars are needed to make a substantive difference to communities in desperate need of help to rebuild homes after storms, or to support farmers when their crops are destroyed, or those permanently displaced by the climate crisis," said Harrison. "Considering the vast and excess profits accrued by fossil fuel companies last year while they continue to trash the climate, and that some the donor states today were responsible for a large proportion of historical greenhouse gas emissions, this is a disappointingly small initial sum."

High-income countries that continue to produce fossil fuels despite clear warnings from energy and climate experts, said Harrison, must "make new and additional commitments to the fund on a scale which reflects the global nature of climate crisis, and the threat it presents to billions of people."

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