Politics of Poverty

Three wins for climate in the President’s FY17 budget request

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U.S. government's budget request for fiscal year 2017. Photo: Bloomberg / Getty Images

We crunched the climate numbers in President Obama’s FY17 budget request, and things are looking good.

I’m really not a numbers person. For years, I’ve been dreading the moment when my children start bringing their math assignments home from school. I pray they will be smart enough to do the work on their own and won’t ask too many questions.

But in my work on climate policy it’s impossible to avoid numbers, so I’ve learned to cope and to check my work a thousand times.

Today is a numbers day. Because today the President releases his budget request for the US government’s 2017 fiscal year. The process involves OMB releasing a mind numbing set of spreadsheets and justifications for climate spending and every other area of federal spending that policy wonks are forced to pour over to see where programs stand and the signals the request sends about the administration’s commitment to our issues. And, every year, the numbers really do tell an interesting story about policy priorities and broader political dynamics.

This year is no different. And in the international climate finance arena there are a few notable inclusions.

  • The President signaled his continued commitment to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) with an increased allocation of $750 million to the Fund over $500 million in 2016. This increase is appropriate as the US needs to increase its annual allocation to the Fund in order to meet its four year commitment of $3 billion to the Fund. The increase also reflects the important victory achieved late last year when the Senate – in a bipartisan effort – removed budget language that would have prevented money from flowing to the Fund. And, perhaps most importantly, the request reflects US leadership and commitment to the Paris climate agreement, as the GCF serves as one of the Convention’s official financial mechanisms.
  • The budget also requests $1.3 billion in bilateral and multilateral funding for international climate finance to achieve the goals articulated in the Global Climate Change Initiative (GCCI). This budget ask includes funding for the Global Environment Facility (GEF), World Bank Climate Investment Funds (CIFs) to which we pledged a total of $2 billion during the George W. Bush administration, and many other programs through agencies like USAID, MCC and OPIC. Funds requested for these areas are not increasing, they’re either the same as last year (i.e. GCCI overall) or decreasing because they are simply paying out the remainder of the US commitment (i.e. CIFs, which are slated to sunset in the next few years). The flat lining of some funds is primarily linked to the overall budget deal that was struck late last year with Congressional leadership.
  • Lastly, the budget request includes $291 million in the USAID budget for Power Africa – a huge bump from the $76.7 million request in FY16. This is important for climate finance because most of these funds are set to support the development of clean energy projects across Africa, providing a compliment to the aims of the GCCI. The significant bump in new funds for Power Africa is likely related to the fact that today the President has signed the Electrify Africa Act into law, which ensures that the initiative will be continued into the future.

The big takeaway is that the numbers are looking good as President Obama continues to make good on his promise to deliver climate finance to poor and vulnerable countries. For those following the budget more closely, you’ll have to wait for nitty-gritty details on specific accounts as we’re still doing our full analysis. As long as we keep up this forward progress, I’ll gladly take on a few more numbers days.

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