09.26.19

Statement On Climate Change

Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I am pleased that the fiscal year 2020 appropriations bill for the Department of State and foreign operations was reported unanimously by the Committee earlier today. There is a great deal in the bill that the American people can feel good about, as the summaries released by both the majority and minority indicate. However, as is always the case with bipartisan legislation, there are also things that I wish were not in the bill. And there are things missing from the bill that I wish had been included. I want to speak about one of those.

I deeply regret that the bill does not even mention the words “climate change”. That is remarkable, or perhaps a better word is appalling, when one considers the existential threat that climate change poses for every living thing on Earth. If Democrats were in the majority, funding for programs to combat global warming and adapt to climate change would be a priority in the bill. Instead, it is completely missing.

An example is the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which was created in 2010 with the active participation of the United States. Its mission is to respond to climate change by investing in low-emission and climate-resilient development. The GCF was established to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries, and to help vulnerable societies adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change. The U.S. contributed a total of $1 billion in the first two years of operation of the GCF.

Then President Trump was elected. Even though, according to press reports, the Trump Organization had previously cited climate change in its application for a permit to build a barrier to protect a Trump golf course from the rising sea level and increasingly powerful storms, he continues to publicly refuses to recognize climate change as a serious threat. Despite that hypocrisy, and overwhelming scientific recognition of the impact of burning fossil fuels on the Earth’s climate, the Trump White House withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement and opposed further U.S. funding for the GCF. Republican majorities in the Congress fell into line, and in the past two appropriations bills there has been no funding for a U.S. contribution to the GCF.

The next replenishment for the GCF is scheduled for 2020. Since there are no funds in the bill just reported by the Appropriations Committee for a U.S. contribution to the GCF, absent an about face by the White House the U.S. will not make a replenishment pledge. It will be left to other countries to ensure that the GCF continues to operate. Once again, U.S. leadership to address what many believe to be the most ominous threat facing the world is nowhere to be seen.

Despite that inexcusable failure by the White House and the Republican leadership in Congress, it is important to emphasize that overwhelmingly the American people recognize the threat that climate change poses and they want strong action to address it. They see what is happening here and around the world, as extreme climatic events – hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, droughts, and forest fires – coupled with crop failures, displacement of people whose homes and livelihoods are destroyed, and unprecedented migration flows, become more and more frequent and destructive. They rightly fear that if we fail to act, not long from now these types of disasters will be exponentially worse, and they worry about the chaos this would cause for their children and grandchildren.

I mention this because I am confident that as soon as we have a President who puts the lives of future generations above the profits and campaign contributions of the fossil fuel companies, the U.S. will once again become a leader against climate change and a leading contributor to the GCF. Other countries should understand this. Despite President Trump and his cheerleaders in Congress, the United States has not turned its back on the threat of climate change. Nor have we abandoned the GCF. Presidents come and go, and while U.S. support for diplomacy and programs to combat climate change is currently suspended, the American people, and especially the younger generation, will make sure that suspension is only temporary.

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