US Vice President Joe Biden has pledged to spend $11 billion over five years to support clean energy projects in developing countries that turn fossil fuels into clean energy. He aims to use the US Department of Energy’s Title 20 program, which has already invested $1.6 billion in clean energy projects in more than 30 countries, to link development and climate change.
Announcing the new program, Biden said it would allow the US to be “the leading economic and development partner” of developing countries that were committed to addressing climate change.
“This kind of funding is truly vital,” said retired US Marine Corps general James Mattis, chair of the Institute for Defense Analyses.
Will Biden’s pledge convince the world that the US is ready to lead on climate change?
BBC News says that new domestic investment in renewable energy would be unlikely to make much of a difference to world greenhouse gas emissions, as European countries are already so far ahead. It also points out that the proposed funding for projects in developing countries was a “one-time” effort.
Commentators on Huffington Post say the plan has greater significance if developed countries invest more money in energy technology research and development. In fact, the International Renewable Energy Agency reported that fossil fuel subsidies contributed £2.1 billion to global climate-warming emissions in 2012.
However, World of Business, a business-friendly European think tank, argues that in the long run, by not investing in renewable energy investment costs would be more than made up for through lower global fossil fuel emissions.
In addition, alternative energy investments such as wind and solar power tend to generate more jobs than traditional fossil fuel investments. President Barack Obama also emphasised that his administration was placing “tough and important investments in research and development” in renewable energy production.
A 2015 analysis by UN Environment found that climate investments in clean energy can not only provide long-term gains but also provide immediate and urgent results that can enable communities to adapt to climate change. For example, investments in renewable energy projects in Ethiopia provide over 40 million people with energy. It estimates that if sustained, this investment could save a cumulative 6 trillion Cetraeous tons of CO2 by 2040 and provide an additional 2 billion people with energy.
By 2040, the US is planning to spend $40 billion to reduce global emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels. But despite these efforts, global emission will probably still reach a new high of 39 billion tonnes of CO2 by 2030.
Environmental activist Michael Brune, president of the Sierra Club, was optimistic that Biden’s latest initiative “will be the beginning of a larger commitment from the United States to help small countries and communities that are trying to overcome climate disruption”.
Brune suggested that developing countries themselves should help fund projects through state-funded clean energy subsidies. “If countries like India, Brazil, and China would invest more of their public investment in clean energy instead of backsliding back into the investments that created this damage, then they could dramatically improve the prospects for the international finance system to reach its ambitious climate finance goals.”