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Biden pledged $11 billion in international climate aid. Can Congress deliver?

The Climate 202

Good morning and welcome to The Climate 202! Happy Friday. Today we’re reading about how “The Office” star Rainn Wilson is changing his name to Rainnfall Heat Wave Extreme Winter Wilson to protest climate change. (It’s unclear whether he actually plans to change his name on legal documents.) But first:

President Biden pledged $11 billion in international climate aid. Greens say Democrats need to deliver.

President Biden has pledged to provide $11.4 billion annually to help poor countries transition to clean energy and adapt to the ravages of climate change.

But this promise hinges in part on control of Congress. If Republicans win the House or Senate in the midterm elections, they could balk at sending billions of dollars to other countries for a climate agenda they oppose.

Amid anxiety about a Republican takeover on Capitol Hill, environmentalists are now urging the White House and congressional Democrats to fight to include this funding in the next government spending bill in December.

Doing so, they say, would ensure that the United States delivers long-overdue support to other nations on the front lines of the climate crisis, regardless of the balance of power at home.

“The administration needs to fight to get as much international climate funding as possible appropriated by Congress, and then they need to pursue all other avenues that are available to them,” said Joe Thwaites, senior policy adviser at NRDC Action Fund, the political arm of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“It’s the right thing to do, both morally and strategically,” Thwaites said in a phone interview from the sidelines of the United Nations climate summit in Egypt, known as COP27, where Biden is expected to deliver a short speech Friday.

How we got here

The debate over international climate finance has a long history marked by broken promises.

  • In 2009, at a U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen, developed countries agreed to provide $100 billion annually to help developing countries transition to greener economies and adapt to mounting climate disasters.
  • But more than a decade later, wealthy nations have failed to make good on that pledge. According to an analysis from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, rich countries fell nearly $20 billion short of what was promised in 2020.
  • Biden announced plans last year to boost the U.S. annual contribution to the problem to $11.4 billion, up from $7.6 billion in 2020. But those plans require congressional approval.

The failure to deliver this funding has frustrated climate advocates in developing nations bearing the brunt of climate damage.

“As the richest country in the world, and the biggest historic polluter, the USA has a responsibility to lead the way on climate change,” Mohamed Adow, director of Power Shift Africa, a Nairobi-based climate and energy think tank, previously told The Climate 202. “The world needs that leadership to keep the international momentum on climate change from stalling.”

What Democrats could do

Environmentalists are now urging Democrats to include the $11.4 billion in international climate aid in the next government spending bill in December, when lawmakers need to reach an agreement on federal funding for the fiscal year beginning in October to avoid a partial government shutdown.

That would allow Democrats to secure the funding in the lame-duck session, when they’re in the majority, rather than in the next Congress, when Republicans could control the House and possibly the Senate, too.

“If the House flips, this might be the last opportunity in the immediate future to fulfill that pledge the United States made a very long time ago,” NRDC President Manish Bapna told reporters Wednesday.

Of the $11.4 billion that Biden has promised, about $5.3 billion would be direct appropriations for international climate finance. Another $5.5 billion would go toward development agencies such as the U.S. International Development Finance Corp. and the Millennium Challenge Corp., which have credit authority to lend at greater sums than their directly appropriated funding.

Alden Meyer, a senior associate at the European climate think tank E3G and a veteran of 25 U.N. climate summits, called on the White House and Democratic appropriators to “play hardball with the Republicans” and push to secure these funding levels.

“Their job is to get as much into that end-of-the-year bill as they can,” Meyer said, “and then we’ll fight for next year’s budget when we get there.”

Republican resistance

Still, Senate Republicans could object to including the funding and threaten to filibuster the bill. And House Republicans have already voiced strong opposition to boosting climate aid for other countries amid rising costs for American consumers.

“Proposing such a significant sum of taxpayer funding for international climate change programs while families and communities struggle to make ends meet adds insult to injury,” Rep. Hal Rogers (Ky.) said during a House Appropriations Committee hearing last year on international climate finance.

A spokeswoman for Republicans on the Senate Appropriations Committee did not respond to a request for comment.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) on Thursday acknowledged the “challenging” political dynamics at play.

“I hope the House is controlled by Democrats; we’re not conceding that yet,” Cardin said on a call with reporters. “But it’s still going to be challenging to make funds available.”

Agency alert

EPA unveils updated proposal to curb methane emissions from oil and gas sector

The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday unveiled an updated proposal to curb methane seeping from pipes and other equipment maintained by the oil and gas industry, the country’s biggest industrial source of the potent greenhouse gas, The Washington Post’s Sarah Kaplan and Dino Grandoni report.

In a bid to demonstrate America’s commitment to tackling climate change, the Biden administration announced the proposal at the United Nations climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, known as COP27.

The proposal, which was partially released during last year’s climate conference in Scotland, would be the first time the federal government requires existing facilities to find and fix methane leaks. The regulations would seek to compel oil and gas operators to use remote sensors to quickly address leaks, and they would require states to develop plans to curb methane from older wells.

“These are critical, common sense standards that will protect workers, protect communities … and make very sharp cuts in dangerous pollutants that threaten our planet,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said at a news conference at COP27.

International climate

Biden arrives at COP27 to tout climate law

When President Biden delivers a speech at COP27 on Friday, he is expected to tout the progress the United States has made toward addressing climate change since he took office, specifically highlighting the domestic investments made through the Inflation Reduction Act.

But instead of hailing Biden for that progress, leaders of developing nations are expected to press the president of the United States, which is the world’s biggest cumulative emitter of greenhouse gases, for money to help them adapt to the effects of climate change, Lisa Friedman reports for the New York Times.

Here’s what else to know about the climate conference:

  • At least 636 representatives from the fossil fuel industry registered to attend COP27, according to an analysis released Wednesday by three advocacy groups, The Post’s Adam Taylor reports. The number means the industry’s presence is once again larger than that of any single country’s delegation, except the United Arab Emirates — a major fossil-fuel-producing nation that is set to host COP28 next year.
  • A dire analysis released Friday, known as the Global Carbon Budget report, injected fresh urgency into the negotiations, finding that nations will probably blow past their remaining carbon budget in nine years if they do not significantly slash greenhouse gas emissions and shun new fossil fuel projects, The Post’s Sarah Kaplan reports.
  • Speaking on a panel at COP27 Friday, Democratic senators expressed concern that global threats to democracy could undermine international cooperation on climate change, Sarah reports. Rising corruption, attacks on elections and other efforts to undermine trust in democratic institutions “erodes our confidence in the ability of our political system to resolve this issue,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.).

On the Hill

Former interior secretary Ryan Zinke wins House seat in Montana

Ryan Zinke, who led President Donald Trump’s Interior Department before resigning under a cloud of ethics investigations, has won a House seat in Montana over Democratic opponent Monica Tranel, an environmental and consumer rights lawyer, The Washington Post’s John Wagner reports.

As interior secretary from 2017 to 2018, Zinke sought to boost the nation’s fossil fuel production and loosen environmental regulations as part of Trump's “energy dominance” agenda. He left office amid controversy over his personal involvement in a land deal with the oil and gas giant Halliburton, as well as other real estate dealings in Montana.

On the campaign trail, Tranel sought to use Zinke’s scandals in Washington against him. Zinke has dismissed the probes as “vicious and politically motivated attacks.” 

Manchin says he will not hold a confirmation hearing for FERC Chair Richard Glick

Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Thursday that he would not schedule a confirmation hearing for Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chair Richard Glick in the lame-duck session of Congress, Daniel Moore reports for Bloomberg Law.

“The chairman was not comfortable holding a hearing,” Manchin spokeswoman Sam Runyon said in a statement Thursday. She declined to elaborate.

The decision comes days after President Biden, who renominated Glick in May, made controversial comments about shutting down coal-fired power plants across the country. Manchin, who hails from one of the nation’s top coal-producing states, slammed the comments and called on the president to apologize to coal industry workers.

“The pending renomination may be one of the few levers available” to Manchin to push back against the “White House’s overall decarbonization agenda,” analysts with the independent research firm ClearView Energy Partners wrote in a note to clients Thursday.

In the atmosphere


We will never look at a glass of water the same way again: 😂😭

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