Doha Climate Summit Ends, Did They Manage to Save the World? Here's What You Need to Know
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There are several clear benefits that commitments to climate finance provide for the United States. For starters, investments in climate aid are cost effective. By investing in mitigation, the United States hedges against the future costs associated with climate change, with a return of about $7 to every $1 invested. If structured appropriately, these investments can also leverage private financing and bring more capital into projects.
Climate change also presents severe destabilization threats to insecure regions through resource constraints and migration challenges. Investments in developing countries can reduce their dependence on unstable foreign oil and increase U.S. influence overseas. Finally, climate finance also creates economic growth and jobs here at home by tapping into the $2.2 trillion yearly clean energy market. With the entire international affairs expenditures at less than 1 percent of the U.S. federal budget, climate finance provides an excellent return on investment in tough economic times.
It’s also useful here to put America’s portion of this commitment to a ramp-up period in context. Mobilizing $60 billion in climate finance over the next three years is just $20 billion each year. Assuming even a very high target by the United States to provide one-third of that amount, it’s still only under $7 billion per year we would need to mobilize. This is well within reach. Last year, the United States financed just under $9 billion in energy projects through the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Export-Import Bank. Most of this money went to fossil fuel sectors, which has been the traditional focus for energy investing for OPIC and Ex-Im. Simply prioritizing clean energy could meet ambitious climate finance commitments with zero new budget authority.
Short-lived Climate Pollutants
As we have been arguing for years now, given the difficulties of forging a new climate agreement that is both applicable to all and sufficiently ambitious to reach acceptable levels of mitigation, we should turn now to reductions in other climate pollutants which are shorter lived and which are more powerful than CO2, such as methane, HFCs and black carbon. They also have the benefit of not driving the entire global economy and so should be easier to phase down and eventually out.
The U.S. has submitted a proposal every year since 2009 with Canada and Mexico to phase out HFCs under the Montreal Protocol. This action is the single biggest achievable measure the world can undertake to close the current ambition gap. Their levels are projected to double by 2020, in large part because they are being used as substitutes for ozone-depleting substances that are being phased-out under the Montreal Protocol. At the last meeting of the Montreal Protocol in Switzerland, the parties agreed to set up a discussion group on this proposal and asked the scientific advisory board to prepare a report on technical options for phasing out HFCs. But India, China, and Brazil still continue to block this measure and so if the US is going to make this happen they must elevate it to the highest levels of diplomacy with these countries in the next administration.
In addition, last February, the U.S. and five other countries created the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to focus on the reduction of a range of short-lived climate pollutants that collectively could reduce warming by half a degree Celsius and maintain those savings if followed by aggressive carbon reduction measures; 26 countries joined by partners in the private sector and NGO community are now part of this coalition of nearly 50 members. We estimate that together, such measures could cut the current ambition gap in half on the high end of the Copenhagen Pledges.