A $100B Joke?

Faced with stalled climate negotiations, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today expressed US commitment to back a $100 billion climate fund for developing nations. With strings attached, of course.

Clinton said that any U.S. contribution to a global $100 billion fund for the world’s poor depended on developing nations standing behind their actions to curb growth in emissions under a new pact to replace the Kyoto Protocol after 2012.

Clinton said a deal would fail unless developing nations, specifically China, committed to transparency on their emissions curbs.

Don’t get me wrong, the fact that "developed" and "developing" nations seem to be getting serious about negotiating some kind of agreement is a good sign. But the proof is in the pudding. And let me just add two splashes of cynicism to the pot.

1. All this finger pointing between countries that have been responsible for ~90% of historical greenhouse gas emissions and those projected to contribute the majority of emissions going forward is so disingenuous. A lot of noise has been made about the fact that China recently passed the United States as the world’s leading emitter. But what you never seem to hear about is how much of China’s emissions are from production and transport of plastic junk we import from them. A lot of their emissions are our emissions. 

2. $100 billion for a climate fund for the world’s poor nations? How generous. But let’s put that number into some kind context. Let’s see, US federal subsidies for the fossil fuel industry between 2002-2008 were more than $72B (PDF), almost six times what we spent on renewables (exluding corn-based ethanol, which is a complete and utter joke). The budget appropriation for Department of Defense expeditures in Iraq and Afghanistan is estimated to be $130B (PDF). That’s just for 2010. Our federal deficit for the month of November was $120.3B. Yes, for just one month.

So, am I saying that we shouldn’t try to support "developing" nations like China and India keep their greenhouse gas emissions from skyrocketing? Of course not. But let’s get serious about this.

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