Despite warnings by Congressional Republicans that he should stick to spiritual matters and leave politics to the politicians, Pope Francis immediately called for climate action upon arriving in the US last week.
“Climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation,” the pope said in a speech at the White House. And that wasn’t even the most politically barbed point he would make.
The pontiff added: “Mr President, I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution.” The pope just officially endorsed the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which Republicans are desperate to defeat.
All obstruction from the GOP and other climate deniers aside, how would the US go about honoring Pope Francis’s call for “all men and women of goodwill in this great nation to support the efforts of the international community to protect the vulnerable in our world” — to not just work to stop global warming, as much as possible, but to also render all possible aid to those who will be impacted most by climate change’s inevitable impacts?
In the encyclical or teaching document he released earlier this year, the pope essentially endorsed the concept of climate finance, which is the provision of funds from industrialized countries to poorer countries to help them adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change and cut greenhouse gas emissions while transitioning to clean energy and otherwise developing their economies in a sustainable manner.
The pope wrote in the encyclical:
A true ‘ecological debt’ exists, particularly between the global north and south, connected to commercial imbalances with effects on the environment, and the disproportionate use of natural resources by certain countries over long periods of time. The export of raw materials to satisfy markets in the industrialized north has caused harm locally, as for example in mercury pollution in gold mining or sulphur dioxide pollution in copper mining.
A climate finance deal is vital to the successful negotiation of an international climate agreement at the UN climate summit in Paris this December. Without finance, there is essentially no agreement, because developing countries say that a climate finance package worth $100 billion per year by 2020 is a requirement for them to sign onto any deal to lower their carbon emissions and shift their economies away from fossil fuels.
Two months before the Paris climate talks, however, the future of President Barack Obama’s request for $500 million in the 2016 budget as a down payment on the $3 billion the US has pledged to the Green Climate Fund looks grim. Congressional Republicans, of course, have vowed to fight the president’s budget request.
This climate finance infographic, courtesy of Friends of the Earth, illustrates how the US can do its part — $3 billion is barely a down payment on what the US really owes. The infographic visualizes who is responsible for the climate crisis, what needs to be done, who should pay, where the money can come from, and where the money should go.
But if you want the quick version: The US holds just 4.5 percent of the world’s population but has been responsible for 27 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions since 1850.
The US can easily afford to do its part to make climate finance a success. For instance, about $60 billion more in funds will be needed every year by the 2050s for adaptation measures in sub-Saharan Africa if the global temperatures rises 2°C / 3.6°F, per the infographic. That’s the cost to US taxpayers for a mere 64 hours — two and a half days — of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, according to the National Priorities Project.
The US has pledged $3 billion to the UN’s Green Climate Fund, but should be paying something closer to $635 billion annually based on its contribution to the climate crisis and its capacity to act.
Image Credit: Friends of the Earth