While We Were Distracted, Another $500 Million Down the Climate Change Rabbit Hole

While the United States was transfixed by staged protests at a cancelled Donald Trump rally in Chicago and the circus that has become the search for our next president, the current president just brazenly spent $500 million of your hard-earned money.

After the Paris climate change summit, the Obama administration pledged $3 billion to the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund (GCF).  At that summit, the European Union, China and India snubbed the fund although members nations of the EU were free to contribute if they so desired.  The fund is established to supposedly help developing nations use renewable green energy instead of fossil fuels.

To show how ludicrous this concept is, Japan committed $1.5 billion towards the fund this year.  However, that $1.5 billion- which counts towards their contribution- is in the form of subsidies to Japanese firms to build coal-fired power plants in these developing countries.  Only in the minds of bureaucrats at the United Nations can building coal plants be considered “green.”

The GCF has announced some projects this year.  For example, they have slated $12.3 million to the tiny African country of Malawi to establish early warning stations for climate change.  In other words, Malawi is getting $12.3 million worth of weather stations.  Another $23.6 million is committed to the Maldive Islands for sustainable drinking water.  The big one is a $217 million bond to grow green energy projects in Latin America.  Meanwhile, Peru is scheduled to get $6.2 million for wetlands resilience projects, although some native Peruvians are a little upset about this expenditure arguing they were not consulted.

As one can see, this is yet another UN slush fund where wealth is literally transferred from richer, developed countries to poorer, undeveloped countries.  India may not be a participating country at either end of the spectrum- giving or receiving.  They recently turned down an offer by Greenpeace to build a solar plant.  The people argued that they wanted reliable electrical sources, not those based on sunlight.

What the US State Department did was transfer funds from other appropriated programs to the GCF to make good on a down payment on the $3 billion pledged by Obama.  Immediately after they made the transfer to the UN through the World Bank, the GCF increased their staff from 56 to 140 people.  Thus, a chunk of the US’ contribution enlarged the bureaucracy and will not actually reach any country.

However, there is a problem.  Congress did not specifically authorize this expenditure.  In fact, when the State Department’s budget was being considered at the end of 2015, many Republican Senators balked at the idea of the commitment.  Some Senators even insisted that the Paris agreement be submitted to Congress and treated as treaty.  However, by design, the entire agreement is a hybrid between a traditional treaty with some items binding on countries and other items being targets and non-binding on the countries.  This was likely done to prevent Congress from weighing in on it as a treaty.

As for the $500 million already transferred to the GCF, some of that money came from three other international aid programs for which money was specifically appropriated.  They are: $170 million from the Clean Technology Fund, $49 million from the Strategic Climate Fund, and $168 million from the Global Environmental Facility Fund.  That adds up to $387 million and one wonders where Obama found the additional $113 million.  The answer may lie in funds appropriated to the Economic Support Fund within the State Department.  This is direct economic aid to countries, or what we normally think of as “foreign aid.”  If so, then there are obviously no funds for the first three programs and the foreign aid budget is $113 million short.  In other words, Obama stole from Peter to pay Paul (the first three programs) then went to Matthew and took an additional $113 million.  It is this latter one that is potentially troublesome the most.

Recently, Senators Cory Gardner of Colorado and Tom Barrasso of Wyoming have suggested that this diversion of funds may be unconstitutional.  The State Department claims they are permitted to shift the funds.  Barrasso countered that Congress has prohibited the transfer of funds.

But here is where Gardner and Barrasso get into potential trouble.  The administration concedes that Congress never approved the $500 million to the GCF.  Likewise, never did Congress prohibit funds be sent to the GCF.  They certainly have that ability within their discretionary powers.  For example, the US has appropriated $339 million to the UN Environmental Program (this was established way before the GCF).  However, Congress generally authorizes no more than $10 million of that money go to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Control (IPCC).  In this case, as part of the State Department funding, they could have limited payments to the GCF, or prohibited them altogether.  Instead, in response to an administration threat to veto the Omnibus Spending Bill passed at the end of 2015, a rider doing just that was removed from consideration by House leadership.

Since 2010, the Obama administration has spent about $13 billion of your money on international climate change programs through international organizations.  That does not count money appropriated for other international environmental projects having nothing to do with climate change.  In the 2017 budget, the administration is requesting another $750 million for the GCF specifically.

Unfortunately, the genie is out of the bottle.  The money has been transferred to the World Bank and on its way to the GCF.  But what this story illustrates is the shoddy work done by Congress, and their submissiveness to the Obama administration over a threatened veto.  Just once this writer wishes this Congress would send a spending bill to Obama and dare him to veto it and justify that veto.  One wonders what taxpayers would think when they found out he vetoed a spending bill and shut down the government because Congress did not want to send $500 million to some obscure international climate change fund.