U.S. offers $1B to global climate fund after six-year hiatus

By Sara Schonhardt | 04/20/2023 07:04 AM EDT

President Joe Biden.

President Joe Biden speaks Tuesday in the White House Rose Garden. He will push member nations of the Major Economies Forum to increase their use of electric vehicles. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Joe Biden will encourage major economies Thursday to ramp up their emissions reduction efforts and sign on to a pledge to make half of all car sales zero-emissions by 2030.

He will also announce a $1 billion contribution to the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund — the first U.S. payment into the pot of developing country climate finance since 2017.

The call to action will come as part of a virtual meeting of the U.S.-led Major Economies Forum on energy and climate. The group includes more than 20 nations that account for around 80 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Administration officials said the meeting offers an opportunity for Biden to take the lead on climate action, ahead of November’s global climate talks.

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“We think it’s extremely important for major economies to be playing a role in holding the high bar for ambition, but also demonstrating extremely concrete ways that we’re meeting those objectives,” said one senior administration official, who spoke to reporters on background.

The administration’s announcement coincides with the release of an International Energy Agency report, which will outline the steps needed to bring down global emissions in line with the Paris Agreement target of holding warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Officials said Biden will focus on the four pillars outlined in that report: driving down emissions in the power and transportation sectors; ending deforestation; tackling potent climate pollutants like methane; and accelerating carbon capture technologies.

The $1 billion contribution to the Green Climate Fund is part of the administration’s pledge to scale up international climate finance to $11 billion by 2024. The money will come from funds appropriated from the State Department’s economic support fund from fiscal 2022 and 2023. Biden will also request that Congress appropriate $500 million over five years for the Amazon Fund, an international effort to help Brazil tackle rainforest destruction.

On transportation, Biden will urge countries to follow the United States in setting a 2030 goal for ramping up zero-emission vehicle sales. Specifically, he will ask countries to commit to ensuring that by 2030, zero-emission vehicles will make up more than 50 percent of global sales for light-duty vehicles and at least 30 percent of global sales for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. Zero-emission vehicles include battery electric, fuel-cell electric and plug-in hybrid.

Countries joining in that collective goal will be expected to set their own national targets by the time the U.N. climate summit, known as COP 28, kicks off in late November in the United Arab Emirates.

EPA recently proposed robust tailpipe emissions standards that aim to make 67 percent of U.S. vehicle sales electric by 2032. On the call with reporters, one official said the Biden administration was letting that proposal “speak for itself as the most recent and substantive statement on our intent for vehicle standards.”

Biden will also push for all members of the Major Economies Forum to align their national climate targets with the goal of keeping warming to 1.5 degrees. And he will launch an initiative to draw $200 million in donations from governments and the private sector to support global methane reductions in developing countries, officials said.

At the Major Economies Forum in September 2021, the United States and European Union jointly announced the Global Methane Pledge, a collective agreement to reduce methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030. That has now grown to include 150 members.

China is not among those members. But the United States on Thursday will encourage China to release a national methane strategy, as it agreed to do as part of a U.S.-China joint climate declaration at climate talks in 2021. Biden administration officials say China’s climate envoy Xie Zhenhua will be attending the forum.

Biden will also call on other countries to accelerate action on the Kigali Amendment, a global treaty to phase down highly polluting hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs. And he’ll urge them to join a “carbon management challenge” to be launched at COP 28 that will work to accelerate carbon capture, utilization and storage for industrial sectors and create new opportunities for direct air capture technology.

One administration official said they expect a “critical mass” of countries to join those efforts.

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