The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 16 to 14 to approve an amendment to restore funding for the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in a spending bill for the State Department, setting up a negotiation with the House over its version of the State funding bill, which does not fund the U.N. climate agency.
“[This] fits in with Secretary of State [Rex] Tillerson’s desire that we both continue to monitor the changes in the world’s climate and that we keep a seat at the table,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., who sponsored the amendment.
The Senate bill would direct $10 million to the body that oversees U.N. efforts to address climate change, despite President Donald Trump’s proposal to cut funding in his first budget draft earlier this year. Since 1992 the United States has contributed some 20 percent of operational funding—$6.44 million—for the secretariat of the UNFCCC and last year provided 45 percent—$2 million—to its science wing, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The Senate bill would not restore U.S. funding for the Green Climate Fund, which helps poor countries adapt to climate change.
The vote on the bill came between two highly destructive hurricanes that representatives of some small island nations are pointing to as they press their case for wealthy countries to pay not just for adaptation but also for climate-related “loss and damage.”
“If ever there was a case for loss and damage, this is it,” Ronny Jumeau, U.N. ambassador from Indian Ocean island nation the Seychelles, told Reuters, referring to Hurricane Irma and other recent storms.
“Hurricane Irma graphically shows the destructive power of climate change and underscores that loss and damage isn’t some abstract concept, but the reality of life today for the people who contributed least to the problem,” said Thoriq Ibrahim, Maldives’ environment minister who chairs the U.N. negotiating bloc Alliance of Small Island States.
On Wednesday, the House voted to block funding for an Obama-era U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) effort to limit methane emissions from new oil and gas drilling sites. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt had imposed a two-year delay on the implementation of the 2016 regulation to review the rules and potentially roll them back. But in July, a federal appeals court blocked the Trump administration from eliminating the methane rule.
DOE Solar Program Hits Target Early; Funding Issued for Cybersecurity
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), this week, announced that efforts to make solar power more cost-competitive hit a key target. The average price of utility-scale solar is now 6 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh)—a price hit three years ahead of a target DOE set through the SunShot Initiative in 2011.
“It’s important to celebrate the progress we’ve made, and be realistic about the challenges that lie ahead,” said Dan Simmons, acting assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy. “Solar’s costs have dramatically declined, but electricity rates have not. As we experience greater penetration of solar [photovoltaics], we experience new challenges.”
DOE attributed the early milestone to rapid declines in the cost of hardware.
In the same announcement, DOE said it will spend $82 million to research energy storage and technologies that could help grid operators detect problems rapidly not only to reduce physical and cyber vulnerabilities, but also to enable consumers to manage electricity use.
Separately, the DOE also announced plans to fund $20 million in energy cybersecurity projects through an array of national labs, universities and private companies.
“This investment will keep us moving forward to create yet more real-world capabilities that the energy sector can put into practice to continue improving the resilience and security of the country’s critical energy infrastructure,” said Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
Hurricanes Raise Climate Change Issue
The devastation following two hurricanes—Harvey and Irma—that made landfall in the United States this month and last have renewed debate about climate change. On a plane ride from Columbia, Pope Francis—who has spoken out about the issue previously—weighed in on the debate.
“If we don’t turn back, we will go down,” said Pope Francis. “Those who deny it should go to the scientists and ask them. They are very clear, very precise. They [world leaders] decide and history will judge those decisions.”
Although many in the Trump administration are not discussing climate change, it is rumored that National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn will host an energy and climate discussion with international officials.
The invitation, obtained by Politico, says the gathering is an “opportunity for key ministers with responsibility for these issues to engage in an informal exchange of views and discuss how we can move forward most productively.”
A White House official told The New York Times that the meeting was intended to be an informal discussion to help the Trump administration find a way to fulfill the president’s pledge to reduce emissions without harming the American economy.
The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.