“I’m a very big person when it comes to the environment. I have received awards on the environment,” President Donald Trump told business leaders at a meeting on Jan. 23.
But between withdrawing the US from the Paris Climate Change Agreement and Trump’s proposed budget cuts to both the Environmental Protection Agency and foreign aid that supports environment and climate change-focused programs, Trump’s potential awards may be in jeopardy.
President Trump’s “America First” budget plan aims to prioritize the safety of Americans by increasing spending on homeland security programs and the military. But Trump’s proposed budget for 2018 includes drastic cuts to the aid that focuses on environmental and climate change issues, and fails to prioritize the safety of America itself.
By failing to invest in the safety and security of the earth through climate change initiatives, Trump’s budget proposal could negatively impact hundred of thousands of Americans in the short-term, and devastate the world in the long-term.
Trump has proposed a 32% cut to foreign aid, which could have a massive worldwide impact on efforts to protect the environment and prevent climate change, improve global health and education, and promote peace and stability. But the president’s proposed cuts to foreign aid, coupled with his proposed cuts to domestic environmental agencies, could also spell disaster for the earth.
Next month marks the start of a new fiscal year, the 12-month period used for tax and financial accounting, meaning a new budget plan will go into action soon.
But the good news is that his proposed budget is just that — a proposal.
The House and Senate have also submitted budget proposals, both of which suggest more modest spending reductions. Unfortunately, Congress’s proposals still reinforce some of the budget cuts proposed by the presidents that could devastate environmental protection efforts — like stopping all federal contributions to the Green Climate Fund — though the Senate’s budget bill does restore $10 million of funding to the UN climate change panel.
US foreign aid spent on environmental and climate change efforts has been on the decline since 2015.
In 2016, the US government spent just over 30% of the $1.77 billion it had planned to spend on foreign assistance for environmental initiatives, according to government data. With just three weeks left in this fiscal year, the US has delivered on less than 25% of its planned foreign assistance for environment and climate change programs, falling more than $170 million short of its $490.97 million obligation, putting this year’s environmental foreign assistance at about one-third of what it was in 2015.
In other words, the US spent 0.007% of its overall budget — which rounds up to roughly 0% — on supporting efforts around the world to protect the earth we all share.
U.S. assistance isn’t a substitute for what other countries must take on themselves. It’s not a gift or handout, but a proverbial hand UP. pic.twitter.com/xykFglsLcp— Mark Green (@USAIDMarkGreen) September 5, 2017
US foreign aid for environmental and climate-change related initiatives takes two different approaches: preventative and responsive. While a number of programs focus on supporting the sustainable development of countries to prevent further environmental degradation, many others concentrate on helping communities deal with the effects of climate change they are already experiencing.
Here’s a closer look at exactly what’s at stake, and who will be affected, if Trump’s budget is approved and the US allots even less funding to international efforts to protect the environment.
Most of the foreign aid the US provides does not go directly to other governments, instead aid is administered by agencies and organizations like the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
USAID is responsible for administering the majority of the US’s non-military aid and assistance and aims to “end extreme global poverty and enable resilient, democratic societies to realize their potential.” The agency funds and implements programs around the world that improve global health, advance education, provide humanitarian assistance, and improve environmental sustainability.
The president’s proposal cuts the overall funds that USAID manages by one-third and specifically proposes eliminating all funding for the Global Climate Change Initiative — previously a $350 million program — which helps other countries develop renewable energy and land management solutions.
The Global Climate Change Initiative also focuses on providing people with better data and data-backed solutions to predict and respond to climate change and its effects.
As part of this initiative, USAID has worked with scientists in Bangladesh to develop an early flood warning system using satellite data to prevent thousands of deaths during monsoon season.
The agency’s programs also aim to support economic growth in developing countries, while implementing environmentally sustainable practices. For example, USAID-funded projects in Cambodia help the Cambodian government better understand the role its mangroves play in slowing carbon emissions and soil erosion, so that it can plant to develop and grow its economy without destroying the livelihoods of the fishermen who rely on the mangroves or increasing greenhouse gas emissions that negatively impact the world’s climate.
During his term, President Barack Obama pledged $3 billion to the UN Green Climate Fund, $1 billion of which has already been given. But when President Trump announced that he would be pulling the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement, he also announced that the US would not be contributing to the “so-called Green Climate Fund — nice name” anymore, which could seriously hinder global efforts to stop climate change.
The Green Climate Fund is a fund collected to support the policies and goals of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the larger international treaty that has been amended and added onto over time through other treaties like the Paris Agreement.
The fund aims to help developing countries reduce emissions that contribute to climate change and adapt to the climate change impacts that have already occurred.
Trump called the US’s commitment to the fund unfair, saying that the fund “calls for developed countries to send $100 billion to developing countries all on top of America’s existing and massive foreign aid payment,” which is not in keeping with his “America First” strategy.
However, when the fund was established 37 developed countries agreed to collectively provide $100 billion, from both private and public sectors, to support climate and environment initiatives in developing countries by 2020.
As of this June, the Green Climate Fund had already begun support for 43 projects and estimates that the funds will impact 128 million people, according to NPR.
The Green Climate Fund supports projects like flood risk-mapping and management in Senegal, where increasingly intense rainfall connected to climate change endangers the most vulnerable populations.
While it might seem like these projects don’t put “America First,” the reality is that they do. By putting the environment first, they put the world and all its inhabitants first.
And it’s not costing us that much. If the US were to fulfill its $3 billion commitment to the Green Climate Fund, it would work out to about $10 per citizen.
The African Development Foundation is actually a US government agency that supports grassroots projects in 30 different African countries. It currently supports more than 500 locally-led initiatives, impacting 1.5 million people each year.
In partnership with USAID, the African Development Foundation has helped fund more than 70 off-the-grid, renewable energy solutions. This includes initiatives like NewEnergy’s program in Ghana, which uses a solar-powered water pump and purification technology to bring clean to remote villages, and an alternative energy enterprise in Liberia that is bringing solar power to Galama Town, an off-the-grid village, whose inhabitants currently rely on homemade kerosene lamps and DIY dry cell batteries.
In order to continue its work in over 25 African nations, the African Development Foundation’s requested $28.2 million for the upcoming fiscal year.
Like the African Development Foundation, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) supports country-led development initiatives. Much of the work it does centers on ensuring that development projects are resilient to climate, and implemented sustainably as well as in a way that is environmentally conscious.
MCC has funded and facilitated infrastructure projects in the Philippines, like the construction of roads and drainage systems that can withstand the typhoons to which the country is prone. Projects like these keep thousands of people safe and ensure that response teams are able to access remote areas after weather-related emergencies, which are becoming more intense and frequent in the area as a result of climate change, research has suggested.
The organization has also supported initiatives like the Fruit Tree Productivity Project, which helps farmers respond to unpredictable rainfall by teaching them to plan and grow more weather-resilient crops. Initiatives like this help farmers protect their livelihoods, even as climate change may impact their work.
Global Citizen campaigns to stop climate change and protect the environment. You can take action here.