loose coalition of international aid organizations, religious groups,
environmental advocates and some businesses are lobbying Congress to
include billions for international aid in the forthcoming climate
The groups argue that helping developing countries cut greenhouse gases and protect against the effects of global warming is a key to success at the international climate talks scheduled for December in Copenhagen.
“The U.S. can’t go completely empty-handed to Copenhagen,” said Oxfam America President Raymond Offenheiser.
Existing problems of poverty and malnutrition in poorer countries have been exacerbated by climate change, experts say, as changing weather patterns and intensified storms hurt agricultural yields and infrastructure.
Roughly 262 million people were affected by climate disasters annually from 2000 to 2004, with over 98 percent of them in the developing world, according to the Human Development Report issued last year by the United Nations Development Program.
Developing nations argue that richer countries should help them offset these effects, given that they produce significantly more of the other greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. Rich countries “containing just 15 percent of the world’s population” account for almost half of carbon dioxide emissions, according to UNDP.
Connie Hedegaard, Denmark’s minister for climate and energy, told reporters that a deal at Copenhagen would be impossible unless richer nations bridge the divide between developed and developing countries with additional funds.
“Politically, it must be additional, and that could be a game changer,” she told reporters last week.
The UNDP estimated that by 2015, developing countries would require $86 billion a year for climate adaptation, which includes measures such as reinforcing infrastructure, making sure water supplies are potable and helping poor countries adapt to changing agricultural conditions.
Last month, 23 Democrats sent a letter to Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), pushing the Energy and Commerce Committee chairman to include “robust” international financing in his energy and climate bill. The committee is expected to vote on the bill before the Memorial Day recess.
“Comprehensive climate change legislation should devote a significant portion of generated revenues to investments in international adaptation, clean technology cooperation and forest protecting activities in the developing world,” the Democrats wrote. “It is an opportunity for leadership, innovation, economic growth at home and abroad, and trust building with developing countries.”
Waxman’s draft bill proposes the creation of a specialized international climate change program at USAID to provide assistance to the “most vulnerable developing countries.”
Some aid organizations, religious and environmental groups would like 7 percent, or $7 billion, of any revenues generated by Waxman’s legislation devoted to international adaptation efforts. The funding would have to be flexible enough to help communities deal with different needs, such as reinforcing buildings to deal with flooding from melting glaciers, reducing soil erosion with reforestation programs and diversifying agriculture practices to cope with changing environmental conditions.
Religious groups cite funding for international adaptation as their No. 1 priority for the bill.
“The moral measure of climate change legislation is how it treats the poor and vulnerable in our own country and around the world,” John Carr, director of justice, peace and human development for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a statement.
Religious groups, sponsored by the faith-based, nonprofit American Values Network, are running ads on Christian radio in key districts in seven states and e-mailing more than 5.3 million evangelicals and Catholics, urging them to support climate change legislation that pays special attention to the needs of vulnerable communities at home and abroad.
The prospective funding could also help mitigate the new national
“Supporting climate readiness now can help avert global instability and will save billions of dollars down the road in emergency relief and military engagement by reducing the worst effects of climate-related disasters,” a group of 24 international aid and environmental groups wrote in a March letter to the heads of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and its Energy and Environment Subcommittee.
Cap and Trade: Swallow That Term
Democrats are getting their talking points in order as the climate change debate heats up this week.
On Monday, pollster Mark Mellman briefed Democratic press aides in the House on the most politically savvy ways to talk about climate change. The briefing aimed to prepare the press secretaries for the crush of coverage expected this week, after Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman unveils his complex climate and energy bill.
The meeting, a weekly confab for House press secretaries, was one of the most well-attended since January, according to one participant.
The phrase “clean energy jobs” is the best way to explain the benefits of climate change legislation, according to polling presented in PowerPoint by Mellman.
Using “cap and trade” to describe the legislation — which creates an auction market for carbon emissions — is a mistake, because voters find the term confusing. Also to be avoided is “green jobs,” a phrase popular with environmentalists to describe careers in renewable energy, energy efficiency and other types of sustainable technologies. Voters think the term describes white-collar jobs for highly educated professors, according to Democratic aides at the meeting.
A Rasmussen poll released on Monday found that just 24 percent of voters correctly identified the cap-and-trade proposal as dealing with environmental issues. Slightly more — 29 percent — thought the term was about regulating Wall Street, and 17 percent thought it had to do with health care reform. Thirty percent had no idea.
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