The Politics of Poverty

Ideas and analysis from Oxfam America's policy experts

Climate denialism in action: The President’s budget takes a strike at those hit hardest by climate change

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Anata Jeune, 43, is the leader of a local women's development organization in Haiti collaborating with Oxfam to introduce climate-smart rice growing techniques to farmers in her area. (Photo: Brett Eloff / Oxfam)

Congress must stand against such devastating cuts for the many who will be affected and to preserve US global leadership.

Make no mistake, the President’s skinny budget released this morning is climate denialism in action. It essentially zeros out all international climate programs while slashing US climate funding, effectively prioritizing ideology over morality. To put this in perspective, climate finance is already a minuscule part of the US budget with approximately 0.04 percent of the federal budget going to international climate finance in 2010-2015.

As we analyze a budget that lines the pockets of fossil fuel interests and corporate elites while starving programs that support US global leadership and diplomacy, it’s important to remember the bigger picture. For years US military leaders have pointed to the national security threat that climate change poses to our country and global stability. It’s been called a ‘threat multiplier’ by national security experts and generals. In fact, in unpublished testimony Secretary of Defense James Mattis noted that “climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today…it is appropriate for the Combatant Commands to incorporate drivers of instability that impact the security environment in their areas into their planning.”

When the US leads with integrity and sticks to our promises to the rest of the world, our country is safer and stronger. What the President has proposed in his budget is the exact opposite.

The budget proposal cuts all funding to the Global Climate Change Initiative (GCCI), an initiative housed at the State Department and created as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. The funds the GCCI provides are a critical lifeline for communities on the frontlines of climate change around the world. Not to mention, it funds a huge portion of US bilateral and multilateral programs and partnerships. These programs build resilience in countries around the world that are particularly vulnerable to climate impacts, fund clean energy research and development, support cooperation for countries to pivot toward low-carbon technologies, protect forests and ecosystems from further harm as climate change shifts entire habitats, and so much more. And while Oxfam’s primary concern is lifting people out of poverty, it should at least be noted that many US companies rely on funds like these to spur investment in clean energy  and resilience projects around the world that in turn help to build US jobs while strengthening infrastructure abroad.

The budget proposal also slashes the Green Climate Fund, an international fund established to lift people out of poverty and to help countries themselves invest in inclusive, sustainable growth, and the World Bank’s Climate Investment Funds that were established with bipartisan support under the George W. Bush administration. Oxfam has championed the Green Climate Fund particularly because it is an equitable mechanism to channel climate finance that allows developing countries to have a say in how the money can best be spent to support their self-determined development pathways. The Fund holds promise in that it’s not heavy-handed aid but rather gives countries the opportunity to invest in inclusive growth, an investment principle that Oxfam has found pays off well into the future.

Zeroing out these programs, as well as other domestic climate programs, hampers the US’s ability to make good on its commitments under the Paris Agreement and represents a huge backsliding in US global influence. It ignores the overwhelming evidence regarding our changing climate and puts millions of people at risk – including in the United States – for the sake of a political win. One thing is certain, we will fight these rollbacks in Congress and we will continue to expose the short-sightedness of this approach for the sake of people living in poverty and future generations.

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