PARIS TALKS

Kerry promises $800M in climate aid for world's poorest

LE BOURGET, France -- Secretary of State John Kerry will announce today that the United States is doubling to $800 million the money it will give the world's poorest countries to help them cope with the ravages of climate change, according to a source close to the negotiations.

Kerry will announce the proposed new funding in a speech to ministers and negotiators gathered in this Paris suburb to try to craft a new global climate change accord.

Observers hope the promise of new grant-based money -- which will have to be approved by Congress -- will tilt the dynamics in the final days of the negotiations as countries battle over some of the hardest-to-solve issues.

"The idea here is to show a leadership role," an official with knowledge of the announcement said. "People are reading the tea leaves extremely closely. Any little nugget -- and this is a big nugget -- can have an impact."

The speech will note that the countries that have contributed the least to pumping greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere have been the worst hit. Changing rainfall patterns and melting glaciers, Kerry will note, jeopardize water supplies for "hundreds of millions" of people, while sea-level rise is an existential threat for island nations.

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In an interview with reporters yesterday, Kerry suggested that he might have something in his hip pocket to help lubricate tough end-of-week talks.

"It's very possible there will be a few things to try to help move the process along. Possible. You know, it's possible," Kerry said. "We're certainly trying to be creative about ways we can make life easier for countries that need some help. And there are countries that need help," he said.

Kerry cited in particular money for adaptation, which is the phrase climate experts use to define what's needed to protect vulnerable communities from the fiercer storms, droughts, cyclones and other weather extremes associated with climate change. Currently, the United States spends about $400 million annually on adaptation for developing countries, according to the Obama administration.

He pointed to the need to expand access to technology, as well, noting the number of poorer countries with pledges to reduce emissions.

"There are countries that want to do a good job and live up to their responsibility, but they don't have the money," Kerry said. "Yes, the world needs to help with that, and we're going to try to do our share."

The United States has pledged $3 billion over four years to the U.N.-launched but independent Green Climate Fund, money Republicans have vowed to block. That as well as the new adaptation pledge is part of what the United States views as its contribution to a promise made in 2009 by wealthy countries to mobilize $100 billion in public and private money annually by 2020.

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