President Biden on Thursday pledged $500 million to fight deforestation in Brazil and more than $1 billion to help developing countries shift away from fossil fuels to become more resilient to the effects of climate change.
During a virtual meeting with the leaders of the world’s largest economies, Mr. Biden called on other countries to set ambitious goals to cut greenhouse gases and limit global warming.
“We are in a moment of great peril but we also face great possibilities, serious possibilities,” said Mr. Biden, who has urged rich countries to do more to help poor ones.
“Those who have contributed the least to the problem, including developing nations, will feel the impact of climate change the most,” Mr. Biden said. “As large economies and large emitters, we must step up and support these economies.”
The $500 million will be delivered over five years and make the United States one of the largest donors to the Amazon Fund, a conservation program. Mr. Biden called forests “the key to our future” and said, “If we lose this natural resource, we will not be able to recover it easily.”
But the pledge will require congressional approval, as Republicans overwhelmingly oppose international climate aid and have made it difficult for President Biden to deliver on his promises to help poor countries adapt to climate change.
On Thursday, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, noted that the head of the US Forest Service recently testified that there was not enough funding for America’s forest management.
“Why are they now sending half a billion US taxpayers’ dollars to Brazil for their own good?” Mr. Barrasso asked. “The highest priority will be taking care of our resources first, or better yet, saving taxpayers the pain of watching President Biden scatter American treasures around the world in pursuit of his environmental agenda.”
Brazil’s president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, has been working with the Biden administration on many issues, including climate change, despite Mr. Lula’s criticism of US support for Ukraine in its war with Russia.
Brazil set up the Amazon Fund in 2008 and has funded efforts to reduce deforestation in the world’s largest rainforest. Norway, the first and largest contributor to the fund, has donated more than $1.2 billion. Germany Recently announced $217 million.
The fund was suspended under Mr. Lula’s far-right predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, which weakened environmental protection and saw average rates of deforestation soar, reaching levels not seen in more than a decade.
Mr. Lula took office in January promising to end deforestation in the Amazon by 2030. But his administration had a rocky start. Raw data He notes that rates of deforestation have continued to rise, as his administration tries to rebuild environmental protections.
The Amazon plays an important role in regulating water cycles, stabilizing the climate, and absorbing carbon dioxide. By one estimate, there is 150 billion to 200 billion metric tons of carbon locked up in the forest. But with the felling of trees, parts of the forest now emit more carbon dioxide than they absorb.
The US commitment “is a lot of money,” said Sole Araujo, a policy expert with the Climate Observatory, an environmental group in Brazil. “It’s a sign of confidence in the new administration, that they can manage this, and that they are making an effort to control deforestation.”
“I really hope that Congress will agree to this,” Ms. Araujo said. “It’s really essential for what Brazil needs.”
Mr. Biden has pledged $11.4 billion a year in international climate aid by 2024, but so far he’s still far from that goal. Last year, Congress approved just $1 billion — despite Democrats controlling the House and Senate.
“We’re working as hard as we can to try to get to that goal and deliver on the president’s pledge,” said Sarah Ladislao, special assistant to Biden and senior director for climate and energy on the White House National Security Council. .
While many environmental groups have praised the funding, some have said Mr. Biden has severely undermined the US position on climate change with his recent decisions to allow a massive oil drilling project in Alaska and to allow new exports of liquefied natural gas from the state.
“Behind the green screen of Biden’s climate promises, he continues to greenlight a disruptive expansion of fossil fuels on project after project,” said Jan Su of the Center for Biological Diversity.
With Republicans now in control of the House of Representatives and Democrats holding a narrow majority in the Senate, winning approval for additional money for things like the Amazon fund will be an uphill battle.
But in at least one instance, the Biden administration has found a way around the Republican opposition.
Last year, Republicans cut money the administration pledged to the Green Climate Fund, a United Nations-led program to help poor countries switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy and increase resilience to climate disasters. On Thursday, the administration said it would provide $1 billion to the fund, drawing on discretionary funds within the State Department, according to an administration official.
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