Obama furthers climate agenda with $500 million payment

This first payment, as part of a $3 billion commitment to the Fund, has gone some way to proving that the Obama administration is able to deliver on its climate promises, despite staunch opposition from the Republican Party. Showing yet more drive in his climate ambitions, during the final year of his presidency, Obama will meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday 10 March, where all expectations are on an agreement to reduce methane emissions and to put in place measures to protect the Arctic from rising temperatures.

The president made the $3 billion pledge to the Green Climate Fund at the COP 21 climate talks in Paris last December. The Fund was set up by the United Nations to help poor countries adopt cleaner energy technologies and to protect them from the impacts of climate change.

The pledge, and the legality of the transfer of funds, has been questioned by Republicans, especially those in Congress, while various Republican presidential candidates have outlined their intentions to block any payments to the Green Climate Fund and scrap the Environmental Protection Agency, should they be elected to the Oval Office. Obama faced a further setback to his Clean Power Plan in February, as the U.S. Supreme Court halted new rules to cut carbon dioxide emissions by power plants 32% by 2030.

In light of this opposition, question marks had arisen over Obama’s ability to delivery on his climate promises, making this payment all the more significant. “This grant is the first step towards meeting the president’s commitment of $3 billion to the GCF, and shows that the United States stands squarely behind our international climate commitments,” a State Department official said.

Joining forces with Canadian PM

News of the payment came just two days before President Obama meets with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, where they are expected to announce some areas of joint co-operation to combat climate change.

One of the expected measures is a drive to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. The potential commitment will be to cut methane emissions 45% below 2012 levels by 2025. It would represent a positive move towards reducing emissions, from a gas which is 80 times as warming as carbon dioxide.

The duo are also expected to announce an agreement on protection measures for a rapidly warming Acrtic, which, with temperatures 7C degrees above average this year, experienced its mildest winter on record. These are likely to include efforts to reduce its reliance on diesel fuels, to promote scientific research that measures the effects of climate change, and to help communities dealing with the effects of climate change.