U.S. Helping Vulnerable Nations Fight Climate Change
By Charlene Porter
May 26, 2011
Washington – U.S. interests in the world are best served by helping vulnerable countries prepare for adverse effects that climate change may bring, according to U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern.
The diplomat, who has a long history in international negotiations on this issue, appeared before a House of Representatives Foreign Affairs subcommittee May 25 to outline the administration’s current policy, with a major meeting of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change
(UNFCCC) approaching at the end of this year.
Stern said a key element of the Obama administration’s policy is helping developing nations adopt sustainable energy and environmental policies that may help mitigate the effects of climate change.
“A great many countries around the world, particularly vulnerable ones facing real danger, see climate change as one of the fundamental challenges facing humanity,” Stern testified. “Whether you agree or disagree, it is vital to U.S. diplomatic leverage generally and to long-term U.S. interests in the world to be seen as meeting our responsibilities in this regard.”
The Obama administration has announced an intent to provide $1 billion through 2012 to help other nations adapt to climate change, an amount Stern said is only three one-hundredths of 1 percent of the annual budget.
Stern presented that argument to the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, chaired by Representative Dana Rohrabacher. The representative expressed concern about the nation’s capability to provide significant long-range funding for other nations’ development plans when the United States faces its own budget deficits.
As the United States prepares for the UNFCCC meeting beginning in November, Stern said negotiators will work to design a structure for the so-called Green Fund to help developing nations make adaptations, and to set up a Climate Technology Center and Adaptation Committee that would provide assistance for vulnerable countries, such as island nations with low elevations that are most threatened by the prospect of rising seas.
Climate change science predicts that warmer global temperatures will cause reduced snowfall and melting of glaciers and polar ice caps, resulting in higher sea levels. Shrinking glaciers have already been documented in Greenland and the Arctic. Controversy continues about whether these signs of warming are a long-term trend or a short-term fluctuation in normal climate patterns.
Helping countries beset by disasters brought on by climate change is another goal of the Obama policy, Stern said. “The United States needs to – and always does – stand ready to help countries victimized by such events. It is who we are, and it is in our own interest to do these things.”