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By Dean Scott
June 22 — House appropriators are once again targeting a key element of President Barack Obama’s climate agenda—his pledge to provide billions to help developing nations prepare for climate change impacts.
The effort to bar contributing to the Green Climate Fund was wrapped into the fiscal year 2017 spending bill for the State Department and related agencies, released June 22 by the House Appropriations Committee. The bill is slated to be taken up June 23 by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs.
Congressional Republicans have repeatedly tried and failed to derail the Green Climate Fund since 2014, when the administration first pledged it would provide $3 billion in total to the GCF over a four-year period.
In a separate move, House Republicans hoped to scuttle a guidance released by the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2010 under which companies are to disclose the degree to which sea level rise and other climate change impacts pose a threat to their operations. The proposal is to be offered as an amendment by Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.) to the FY 2017 spending bill for the commission, the Treasury Department, and other federal entities, and could be voted on the House floor as early as this week.
Posey's amendment was among those cleared for debate and vote on the floor June 21 by the House Rules Committee, which sets procedures and decides which amendments are to be voted on for each bill that comes to the floor.
The Obama administration's pledge to contribute to the Green Climate Fund was meant to prod developing nations to sign on to a global climate deal, which was ultimately agreed to at a December United Nations summit in Paris. The U.S. made a $500 million payment to the climate fund earlier this year; Obama requested a total of $750 million for it under his fiscal 2017 budget proposal, the last for the two-term president which was unveiled in February.
Efforts to use spending bills to bar the administration from making the annual U.S. contribution to the climate fund have all failed, including a 2015 effort that was defeated in a close vote in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Language specifically barring the payment was stripped out of the fiscal 2016 funding bill for the State Department and related agencies, when Democrats got two key votes in the appropriations panel from Republicans Sen. Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Susan Collins (Maine) for an amendment that essentially restored the funding.
That amendment was offered by Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley (D); the administration argued that its contribution to the climate fund was ultimately authorized under an omnibus spending bill enacted that December. Congressional Republicans have long disputed that interpretation.
Besides the language targeting the fund, the fiscal 2017 State Department spending bill also includes language to reverse climate-friendly policy statements issued by the Obama administration, including a 2013 Treasury Department guidance that declared the U.S. will vote “no” at World Bank and other multilateral institutions on coal-fired power plants that lack technologies to capture and store carbon dioxide.
The amendment from Posey to block the SEC climate guidance comes as the House is set to take up a $21.7 billion fiscal 2017 spending bill for the commission, the Treasury Department, and other federal entities.
Posey's amendment would block the commission from using FY 2017 funding to implement, administer, or enforce its guidance or codify it into a regulation.
The SEC issued the guidance in 2010 after years of pressure from investor groups such as Ceres, a coalition of investors and environmental groups, which have pushed companies to disclose how they are cutting greenhouse gas emissions and analyzing climate risks.
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