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Fact-Checking Trump on Climate Finance

When President Donald Trump announced his intention to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement, he had plenty to say about international climate funding, much of which was simply inaccurate. Here’s a fact check of Trump’s June 1 Rose Garden remarks on climate finance.


“Beyond the severe energy restrictions inflicted by the Paris Accord, it includes yet another scheme to redistribute wealth out of the United States through the so-called Green Climate Fund -- nice name -- which calls for developed countries to send $100 billion to developing countries all on top of America’s existing and massive foreign aid payments.”

WRONG: The Paris Agreement neither created nor called for pledges to the Green Climate Fund (GCF). The GCF was formally created in 2010, five years before the Paris Agreement was written.

Separately, in 2009, developed countries agreed to mobilize $100 billion per year by 2020 to help developing countries cope with a changing climate. This money may “come from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources,” so not all of it has to flow through the GCF.


“So we’re going to be paying billions and billions and billions of dollars, and we’re already way ahead of anybody else. Many of the other countries haven’t spent anything, and many of them will never pay one dime.”

WRONG: The U.S. pledge to the GCF is $3 billion over a multi-year period, with a condition not to exceed 30 percent of the total pledges. Forty-three countries have made pledges to the GCF so far, totaling $10.3 billion. The U.S. pledge is less than 0.25 percent of the over $1.2 trillion annual discretionary U.S. budget in fiscal 2016, and less than the $4.7 billion a year of federal government subsidies to fossil fuel production.

All but three developed countries are providing climate finance (the exceptions are Croatia, Greece and Russia). Developing countries don’t have to contribute, although many have volunteered: nine developing countries made pledges to the GCF and eight provide funding to the Global Environment Facility. Developing countries are also investing billions of dollars of their own money in domestic climate action.


“The Green Fund [sic] would likely obligate the United States to commit potentially tens of billions of dollars of which the United States has already handed over $1 billion -- nobody else is even close; most of them haven’t even paid anything -- including funds raided out of America’s budget for the war against terrorism.”

WRONG: Contributions to the GCF are voluntary; the Paris Agreement does not obligate countries to provide specific amounts to the GCF. President Barack Obama pledged to the fund in November 2014 because he recognized it was an effective way to “promote smart, sustainable long-term economic growth and preserve stability and security in fragile regions of strategic importance to the United States.” The pledge built on the Bush administration’s voluntary pledge of $2 billion to the Climate Investment Funds in 2008.

The U.S. has deposited $1 billion with the GCF, making it currently the top contributor in absolute terms. However, four other countries have pledged more than $1 billion; the UK has already paid in 55 percent of its contribution, Japan and Germany half, and France 32 percent. If the United States makes no further payments, it will fall to being the fifth-largest contributor. On a per capita basis, the U.S. pledge ranks 11th, and as a share of gross domestic product it is 32nd of the 43 contributing countries. The funds Obama disbursed to the GCF came from the State Department’s Economic Support Fund account, flexible funding that can be used for a variety of purposes.


“In 2015, the Green Climate Fund’s executive director reportedly stated that estimated funding needed would increase to $450 billion per year after 2020.”

MISLEADING: The $450 billion per year figure is an estimate of total investment needed for emissions reductions and adaptation to the impacts of climate change. This includes both public and private funding. It was mentioned in a Reuters article that also quoted Hela Cheikhrouhou, then executive director of the GCF.

Estimates of total investment needed to address climate change vary, and falling clean technology costs make it difficult to put a fixed number to it, but even where needs can be enumerated, how they should be met between public and private sources is a matter for economic and political debate.


“And nobody even knows where the money is going to. Nobody has been able to say, where is it going to?”

WRONG: The GCF has a handy page giving detail on where money is going. All funding is approved by the GCF Board, consisting of 24 country representatives, including the United States. Other funds also list their projects, and independent researchers track where funding is flowing. Improving transparency to ensure funding is used effectively is important, and this is one of the key functions of the Paris Agreement.


“Of course, the world’s top polluters have no affirmative obligations under the Green Fund [sic], which we terminated.”

WRONG: Of the top 10 greenhouse gas emitting countries, six have made pledges to the GCF (counting the 28 EU member countries as a single unit; 22 of these have made individual pledges to the GCF. Taken as whole, the EU would be the largest contributor, with pledges adding to $4.8 billion). While China has not pledged to the GCF, it has pledged ¥20 billion (approximately $3.1 billion) to its South-South Climate Cooperation Fund, more than the U.S. pledge to the GCF.

The US has not terminated the Green Climate Fund.

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