Before Trump Could Stop It, Obama Spent $500 Million To Fight Climate Change

We’ve now given a billion dollars to help developing countries transition to clean energy. Sadly, we pledged $3 billion–and the rest may never get paid.

Before Trump Could Stop It, Obama Spent $500 Million To Fight Climate Change
[Illustration: 80monkeys/iStock. Photo: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center]

Days before Trump takes office, the State Department announced that it will send $500 million to the Green Climate Fund to help developing countries fight climate change. That’s money that Trump threatened not to pay–but now he won’t be able to stop it.


“The check is cashed, so to speak,” says Jesse Bragg from Corporate Accountability International, a group that organized a petition in late 2016 to pressure the government to make a payment. “So there’s no way for the Trump administration to rescind this or other payments that the Obama administration has made to the Green Climate Fund.”

It’s likely to cost trillions of dollars for developing countries to slow down climate change and adapt to heat waves and flooding. Because they can’t foot the bill alone–and because countries like the U.S. are responsible for most emissions so far–a group of mostly wealthy nations has pledged around $10 billion, so far, to the Green Climate Fund. The fund is a key part of implementing the Paris climate agreement.

The U.S. promised $3 billion, the largest commitment of any of the 43 countries supporting the fund, and made its first payment of $500 million in 2016. The new payment will bring the total to $1 billion; the other $2 billion may never be paid. Trump’s action plan for his first 100 days in office calls for canceling “billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs.”

Some of the money in the fund will go to mitigation projects, such as a massive solar farm in the Atacama Desert that will bring clean energy to Chile. Other projects will help countries adapt. Tuvalu, a tiny island country, will use funds to build up protections to sea level rise along its coast. To date, 35 projects have been approved for funding.

Much more funding will be needed to transition to a clean and resilient global economy, but the U.S. support will make a difference now.

“The U.S. making good on its commitment–or at least making its best effort under the new circumstances we’re operating under–is an incredibly important symbol to those other countries that have made commitments that they shouldn’t let our situation with a Trump administration keep them from advancing the work that they’ve done on an international level,” says Bragg.

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.