The US has promised $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), for reducing emissions and adapting to climate change in developing countries.
US vice-president Kamala Harris made the promise at the Cop28 summit in Dubai on Saturday, claiming the US is “a leader in the effort to expand international climate finance”.
If delivered, it puts the GCF on course for what its secretariat describes in internal documents as a middling level of ambition.
But to deliver, Harris and Joe Biden ‘s administration will have to persuade Republicans in Congress to approve the money or take control of Congress by winning elections.
Reaction to the pledge was mixed. ActionAid USA’s Kelly Stone said it was a “far cry from what is needed”.
She pointed out that the US still owed the GCF $1 billion from a $3 billion Obama-era pledge in 2014. “In reality, they are only pledging $2 billion in new money,” she said.
Erika Lennon, a GCF-watcher from the Center for International Environmental Law, said that pledging less than the $3 billion Barack Obama pledged nine years ago is “unacceptable”.
“The climate crisis has worsened, the need for climate finance is greater and the US pledge has stagnated. The US can and must do better,” she said.
Liane Schalatek from the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung foundation said it was "well below a fair share" and E3G's Alden Meyer said the US was "punching well below its weight".
The US's $3 billion is the biggest pledge of the fundraising round but its economy is far bigger than the other big donors in Europe and Japan.
But the Sierra Club's head Eva Hernandez said she was "encouraged" and the NRDC's Manish Bapna said it was "a promising signal of the USA's commitment to spur clean energy and promote resilience in vulnerable countries".
The US failed to deliver all of Obama's $3 billion pledge because of opposition from Republicans in Congress and later from Donald Trump in the White House. The Biden administration faces the same political headwinds.
In Congress, the House of Representatives, is currently controlled by the Republican Party. The Senate has a slim majority for Biden's Democrats.
Alden Meyer said getting GCF spending through the House of Representatives was not possible "unless they change their stance on it".
"There's three things they don't like about the GCF," he joked, "that its green, that it's for the climate and that it's a fund - other than that, they're fine with it".
The best hope for getting funding through Congress, Meyer said, is for the Democrats to win the Presidential election next year and the Congressional elections at the same time.
The Biden administration could also use more general funds approved by Congress to channel money to the GCF, Meyer said, although that risks Congressional support for those funds.
A Trump victory in next year's elections would dampen any hopes of delivering the money. It was Donald Trump who, in his first term, refused to honour the remaining $2 billion of Obama's $3 billion pledge. He said the fund was "costing the United States a vast fortune". In May, the Biden administration paid $1 billion of this $2 billion.
This record of under-delivery has angered developing countries. In January, African members of the GCF board tried to block the US from co-chairing the board but later backed down.
This article was corrected on 6/12/2023. It originally incorrectly said that the $1 billion the Biden Administration promised in April 2023 had yet to be paid to the GCF. It has now been corrected to say this money was paid in May 2023.