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John Kerry puts US weight behind Green Climate Fund

BARCELONA (THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION) – The US government swung its support back behind the multi-billion-dollar Green Climate Fund (GCF) on Tuesday (April 20), with US climate envoy John Kerry promising Washington would put more money in to help developing countries tackle global warming.

Mr Kerry told an event hosted by the GCF that US President Joe Biden’s request of about US$1.2 billion (S$1.6 billion) for the fund in the coming fiscal year’s budget “is just the beginning of what we intend to do”.

Mr Kerry noted in a video message that the money, if approved, would go a “good way” to paying down what Washington still owes to the GCF from an initial US$3 billion pledge the United States made in 2014, of which only US$1 billion was delivered.

Former President Donald Trump, a climate change sceptic, refused to pay the rest.

For more than four years the United States has made no contribution to the flagship fund set up under UN climate talks to help poorer countries pursue clean growth and adapt to a warming planet, Mr Kerry noted.

Green groups and aid agencies have called on the Biden administration to put in an additional US$6 billion, doubling its initial pledge as other major donor countries did in 2019.

Mr Kerry told the GCF event, ahead of this week’s Earth Day leaders’ climate summit hosted by Mr Biden, that the United States wanted to send “a clear signal that we value the fund’s work” and are “looking forward to investing” in that work in the years ahead.

“President Biden knows we need to contribute going forward, and even now we have started to consider exactly how to provide scaled-up resources to the GCF,” he added.

Climate finance campaigners, some of whom had criticised the US$1.2 billion fiscal year 2022 budget request made this month as inadequate, took Mr Kerry’s words as an encouraging sign.

The GCF said in a tweet it very much welcomed “the renewed strong commitment” of the United States to the Paris Agreement on climate change and to the Green Climate Fund.

“Our climate action partnership with the (United States) is crucial to delivering urgent climate finance in developing countries,” it said.

In an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation last month, GCF head Yannick Glemarec said the US decision on restarting contributions to the GCF would be decisive in whether the fund would use up its existing roughly US$10 billion in new pledges by the end of 2023, or be able to scale up its action.

The fund has so far committed US$8.3 billion to 173 projects in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, and is set to help nearly 500 million people become more resilient to more extreme weather and rising seas, while cutting carbon emissions.

Mr Kerry stressed the importance of the GCF in channelling funds to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people in innovative ways, including by encouraging private investment.

The world needed to make “significant investments” in adapting to the climate change already happening, he noted.

The GCF still had more work to do in streamlining its governance, fostering inclusion, and improving access and efficiency, he said.

But the United States wanted to be an “ally and a partner” of the fund in those endeavours, he added.

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A shadow was cast over expectations of a revitalised relationship with the United States when the Climate Home News website last month reported allegations of mistreatment of staff and poorly handled complaints at the GCF’s secretariat.

Mr Glemarec told the Thomson Reuters Foundation the fund had taken steps to improve its handling of staff grievances internally, and the results were starting to show.

Mr Kerry on Tuesday said the GCF was an “indispensable player” in getting climate finance to poorer nations and communities in transformational ways.

“We need the GCF functioning at its absolute peak capacity in the years ahead,” he said.

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