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Spending bill targets Kerry’s office, global climate spending

Diaz-Balart sees a 'boondoggle of climate change spending'

John Kerry, right, the special envoy for climate change, would see his office eliminated in the House's draft fiscal 2024 State-Foreign Operations spending bill.
John Kerry, right, the special envoy for climate change, would see his office eliminated in the House's draft fiscal 2024 State-Foreign Operations spending bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Republican appropriators want to eliminate funding for John Kerry’s position as President Joe Biden’s special envoy and for other international climate efforts.

The House State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee advanced its fiscal 2024 spending bill on June 23, including a prohibition on funding for envoys not authorized by Congress or confirmed by the Senate.

“Over the last several years, we have witnessed a boondoggle of climate change spending, and our bill provides a much needed course correction in several key areas,” said Subcommittee Chairman Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla.

Kerry, a former Massachusetts senator, Democratic nominee for president and secretary of State, serves as special presidential envoy for climate issues and represents the U.S. at international climate summits. His office was established by Biden on Jan. 20, 2021. He is one of 33 special envoys or representatives the State-Foreign Operations bill would eliminate.

Republicans, particularly House Oversight and Accountability Chairman James R. Comer of Kentucky, have expressed concern about Kerry’s position, saying he has been given the opportunity to bind the U.S. to climate agreements with limited accountability.

The State Department said funding for Kerry’s office was $16.7 million annually for both fiscal 2022 and 2023.

The fiscal 2024 spending bill also includes provisions that target programs Kerry and Biden have championed since the U.S. returned to the Paris Agreement in 2021.

The Biden administration said in April it intends to provide $1 billion to the Green Climate Fund to assist populations in developing countries and small island states threatened by climate change. The fund was established within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The Republican majority singled out that and other climate funding as “wasteful spending” in its committee report on the appropriations bill. They would not only prohibit money for that fund but also for the Clean Technology Fund at the World Bank.

Republicans would stop another of Biden’s goals before it starts by blocking money for a “soon-to-be-established fund” to compensate any nation, organization or individual for climate damages.

The U.S. and other wealthy nations agreed to establish a new fund at a climate meeting in Egypt in November, but without specifying any sum.

More than 100 developing and small island nations had called for such compensation. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said at the time it wasn’t enough to address the concerns of the nations seeking loss and damage, but said “it is a much-needed political signal to rebuild broken trust.”

The bill would prohibit the Treasury Department from carrying out the administration’s climate goals at the World Bank and other multilateral development banks at a time when those institutions are under pressure from many nations to do more climate-related lending. Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley has called for funding through multilateral development banks to expand by $1 billion.

“The problem is that there is a serious disparity in the pricing of capital between the global north and the global south,” Mottley said during a World Economic Forum event on June 27. “We therefore have to start where we can make meaningful progress, and we believe that is in the area of finance.”

The Biden administration has already had a difficult time getting its proposed climate spending through Congress. Under narrow Democratic majorities in both chambers, lawmakers provided $1.1 billion for climate finance programs in fiscal 2023, but that was far less than the $5.3 billion the administration requested.

The Republican appropriations report also said the administration’s climate agenda harms developing countries and opens the door to “predatory financing” from China. It said the administration co-opts other programs to advance its climate agenda, singling out efforts to empower women, advance democracy or counter human trafficking.

Rachel Oswald contributed to this report.

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