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By Dean Scott
March 8 — The U.S. has released $500 million to the Green Climate Fund as a partial payment of a broader $3 billion pledge the Obama administration has made to the United Nations fund to help developing nations adapt to climate impacts, a State Department official said March 8.
“This grant is the first step toward meeting the president's commitment of $3 billion to the GCF and shows that the United States stands squarely behind our international climate commitments” and the Paris climate deal reached by nearly 200 nations in December, the spokesman said.
But Senate Republicans continue to oppose the funding, with Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) calling the money a “slush fund” that was never specifically authorized by Congress.
“It appears to be the latest example of the administration going around Congress because the American people don't really support what the president is doing with this initiative,” Barrasso, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Multilateral International Development, Multilateral Institutions, and International Economic, Energy, and Environmental Policy, said at a March 8 hearing.
“This is a blatant misuse of taxpayer dollars,” Barrasso said.
The administration unveiled its pledge in 2014 to provide a total of $3 billion over four years toward an international Green Climate Fund in hopes of bringing developing nations to the table for a global climate agreement (.
About $10.3 billion has been pledged to the fund, largely from developed nations. The nearly 200 nations agreed in Paris to provide $100 billion a year beginning in 2020, from private and public sources, to help developing nations pursue low-carbon development and adapt to climate change impacts.
At the March 8 hearing, Barrasso pressed Heather Higginbottom, deputy secretary of state for management and resources, to explain what legal authority the administration has to move the relatively large sum without congressional direction. Higginbottom was testifying at a Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the State Department's fiscal 2017 budget request.
The $500 million sum was transmitted to the World Bank on March 7, according to Higginbottom, who defended the administration's authority to transmit the money.
“We reviewed the authorities and opportunities available to us to do that and believe we are fully compliant,” she said.
The most recent governmentwide funding bill—an omnibus measure (H.R. 2029) agreed to in December that narrowly avoided a government shutdown—did not include a policy rider Republicans had sought to bar the administration from funding the Green Climate Fund .
In the absence of that language, the administration argues that it essentially has the discretion to find the funding to finance its $3 billion pledge.
In the final budget proposal of his presidency, President Barack Obama requested $1.3 billion for his Global Climate Change Initiative in fiscal 2017, which includes $750 million for the Green Climate Fund .
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