But the Obama administration is on track to fall more than $200 million short on its $1 billion pledge to help prevent the cutting and burning of tropical rain forests. Lawmakers have slashed requests on everything from promoting clean energy to helping developing nations cope with the effects of global warming. And although the United States is putting into place standards for autos and trucks that will drastically reduce emissions, its negotiators are fighting with European Union officials over their attempt to regulate U.S. airline carbon emissions.
Any clear indication on where the United States is headed in this arena will have to wait until after the 2012 election, if not later, said Robert N. Stavins, director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government.
“In terms of explicit climate policy, the administration will not be able to deliver, at least between now and 2013,” he said.
The administration responds that it is pressing ahead with regulations to cut emissions from cars and light trucks dramatically by 2025. And greenhouse-gas emissions in the United States have dropped 8 percent between 2005 and 2009, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, although the economic downturn accounts for at least part of the decline.
The United States pledged during U.N. talks to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.
“We obviously would have liked to get energy and climate legislation done last year, but no one should think this administration isn’t acting,” said Todd Stern, the U.S. special envoy for climate change. “We are acting with landmark provisions on vehicle efficiency and $90 billion of investments to spur efficiency, renewable energy, an electric-car industry, and a smart grid — investments that make us cleaner, more competitive and less carbon-intensive.”
Delivering on international climate assistance has proved more challenging. The administration promised in Copenhagen to provide $1 billion between 2010 and 2012 to prevent tropical deforestation, which accounts for about 15 percent of the world’s annual greenhouse-gas emissions. It also promised to contribute an unspecified share of a broader commitment by rich nations to provide $30 billion in “fast start” financing during that time to the developing world.
What is clear is that the Obama administration has gotten much less than it wants from Congress to fund its climate initiatives. The United States provided $1.7 billion in international climate aid in fiscal 2010, $400 million of which came from U.S. development finance and export credit agencies. It asked for $1.9 billion in fiscal 2011, and administration officials said they were crunching numbers but the total was likely to be lower than 2010’s. The Congressional Research Service puts core climate funds for fiscal 2011 at $946 million, but administration officials predicted other funding would raise the total significantly above that.