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President Joe Biden has announced a new climate finance pledge, doubling his administration’s previous commitment earlier this year.
Mr Biden used his first address as US president before the 76th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York on Tuesday to increase the country’s commitment to support developing nations’ ability to tackle the climate crisis.
The new pledge means that the US will contribute $11.4billion (£8.36bn) annually by 2024.
The US and other wealthy nations committed a decade ago to providing $100bn per year by 2020 for climate action in countries which are facing extreme impacts from global heating but have historically contributed low levels of greenhouse gas emissions.
Recent studies have shown that the “Green Climate Fund” is still falling short of this goal.
Mr Biden used his speech to call for international cooperation in driving down emissions and developing clean energy systems, along with working together on the Covid-19 pandemic and stamping out human rights abuses. He positioned the challenges as a new chapter, referencing the end of America’s 20-year war in Afghanistan.
“Instead of continuing to fight the wars of the past, we are fixing our eyes on devoting our resources to the challenges that hold the keys to our collective future: ending this pandemic; addressing the climate crisis; managing the shifts in global power dynamics; shaping the rules of the world on vital issues like trade, cyber, and emerging technologies; and facing the threat of terrorism as it stands today,” he said.
Mr Biden said that his administration would work with US Congress to secure the increase in climate funding “to support the countries and people that will be hit hardest and that have the fewest resources to help them adapt”. He added: “This will make the United States a leader in public climate finance. And with our added support, together with increased private capital and other -- from other donors, we’ll be able to meet the goal of mobilizing $100 billion to support climate action in developing nations.”
The US’ financial pledge marked a positive note ahead of the UN climate summit, Cop26, which is being hosted by the UK in Glasgow in a matter of weeks.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said achieving the $100bn in climate financial aid is one of his key goals for Glasgow along with slashing global emissions around 45 per cent from 2010 levels by the end of the decade.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson used his visit to the US to warn leaders of the world’s biggest economies that history will judge them harshly if they fail to deliver at Cop26.
Following Mr Biden’s speech on Tuesday, Mr Johnson welcomed the updated US climate funding pledge as a “very good start” that takes them “a long way towards the goal”.
Speaking to reporters on the platform at Washington DC’s Union Station, the British leader said: “This is very good news in the sense the United States has stepped up to the plate with a massive contribution.
“That’s a very, very good start. It means we’re a long way towards the goal we need to achieve but there’s still a long way to go. There’s no question that this American action today has been a big lift and will really help us to get there.”
Alok Sharma, the UK president of Cop26, also tweeted: “Strongly welcome @POTUS further doubling climate finance commitment to over $11bn by 2024. This demonstrate the increased ambition required to deliver on the $100bn/year goal. We must build on this momentum.”
At a top-level meeting in New York on Monday, Mr Johnson had voiced “frustration” that some of the world’s richest economies have failed to meet demands to cut emissions and come up with their share of the $100bn fund.
Analysis by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) last week found that only $79.6bn was mobilised by wealthy nations in 2019 – a slight bump of 2 per cent on the previous year but still far short of the target.
Cop26, which begins on 1 November, is widely viewed as critical to turning the tide on rising emissions levels which are driving more extreme impacts around the world.
At a climate summit hosted by the US in April, the Biden administration announced the US would provide $5.7bn in climate finance annually by 2024 – less than a quarter of what EU countries were already putting forward in 2019.
Climate scientists and policy-makers welcomed President Biden’s increased financial pledge on Tuesday.
Dr Rachel Cleetus, a lead economist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, called it “a welcome and much-needed sign that the United States is finally taking its global climate responsibilities seriously”.
She added: “Climate vulnerable nations—particularly low- and middle-income countries—are already reeling from an unprecedented onslaught of climate-related disasters and desperately need financial support to adapt and build resilience to worsening impacts. And they need resources to help them rapidly transition to clean energy.”
Helen Mountford, vice president of climate and economics at the World Resources Institute, noted that providing climate finance is a central tenet of the Paris Agreement and that the US had taken an important step toward making good on its share of responsibility.
“Looking forward, President Biden should work with the US Congress to assure that these funds can be credibly delivered, addressing concerns about access to funds,” she said.
“The US should also significantly increase its share of adaptation finance in line with the Paris Agreement goal to balance the finance provided between mitigation and adaptation.
“The US should work with peers to set a clear path to deliver the $100bn annually, and work with all countries to establish a robust process to set a new, post-2025 climate finance target, including greater transparency and reporting.”
This article has been updated