May 13, 2009 04:36 AM EST
A loose coalition of international aid organizations, religious groups,
environmental advocates and some businesses are lobbying Congress to
include billions for international aid in the forthcoming climate change
The groups argue that helping developing countries cut greenhouse gases
and protect against the effects of global warming is a key to success at
the international climate talks scheduled for December in Copenhagen.
"The U.S. can't go completely empty-handed to Copenhagen," said Oxfam
America President Raymond Offenheiser.
Existing problems of poverty and malnutrition in poorer countries have
been exacerbated by climate change, experts say, as changing weather
patterns and intensified storms hurt agricultural yields and
Roughly 262 million people were affected by climate disasters annually
from 2000 to 2004, with over 98 percent of them in the developing world,
according to the Human Development Report issued last year by the United
Nations Development Program.
Developing nations argue that richer countries should help them offset
these effects, given that they produce significantly more of the other
greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. Rich
countries "containing just 15 percent of the world's population" account
for almost half of carbon dioxide emissions, according to UNDP.
Connie Hedegaard, Denmark's minister for climate and energy, told
reporters that a deal at Copenhagen would be impossible unless richer
nations bridge the divide between developed and developing countries
with additional funds.
"Politically, it must be additional, and that could be a game changer,"
she told reporters last week.
The UNDP estimated that by 2015, developing countries would require $86
billion a year for climate adaptation, which includes measures such as
reinforcing infrastructure, making sure water supplies are potable and
helping poor countries adapt to changing agricultural conditions.
Last month, 23 Democrats sent a letter to Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.),
pushing the Energy and Commerce Committee chairman to include "robust"
international financing in his energy and climate bill. The committee is
expected to vote on the bill before the Memorial Day recess.
"Comprehensive climate change legislation should devote a significant
portion of generated revenues to investments in international
adaptation, clean technology cooperation and forest protecting
activities in the developing world," the Democrats wrote. "It is an
opportunity for leadership, innovation, economic growth at home and
abroad, and trust building with developing countries."
Waxman's draft bill proposes the creation of a specialized international
climate change program at USAID to provide assistance to the "most
vulnerable developing countries."
Some aid organizations, religious and environmental groups would like 7
percent, or $7 billion, of any revenues generated by Waxman's
legislation devoted to international adaptation efforts. The funding
would have to be flexible enough to help communities deal with different
needs, such as reinforcing buildings to deal with flooding from melting
glaciers, reducing soil erosion with reforestation programs and
diversifying agriculture practices to cope with changing environmental
Religious groups cite funding for international adaptation as their No.
1 priority for the bill.
"The moral measure of climate change legislation is how it treats the
poor and vulnerable in our own country and around the world," John Carr,
director of justice, peace and human development for the U.S. Conference
of Catholic Bishops, said in a statement.
Religious groups, sponsored by the faith-based, nonprofit American
Values Network, are running ads on Christian radio in key districts in
seven states and e-mailing more than 5.3 million evangelicals and
Catholics, urging them to support climate change legislation that pays
special attention to the needs of vulnerable communities at home and
The prospective funding could also help mitigate the new national
security risks created by changing weather conditions, the groups argue.
Droughts, famines and floods caused by global warming could destabilize
regions around the world as competition increases for food and water.
"Supporting climate readiness now can help avert global instability and
will save billions of dollars down the road in emergency relief and
military engagement by reducing the worst effects of climate-related
disasters," a group of 24 international aid and environmental groups
wrote in a March letter to the heads of the House Energy and Commerce
Committee and its Energy and Environment Subcommittee.
Cap and Trade: Swallow That Term
Democrats are getting their talking points in order as the climate
change debate heats up this week.
On Monday, pollster Mark Mellman briefed Democratic press aides in the
House on the most politically savvy ways to talk about climate change.
The briefing aimed to prepare the press secretaries for the crush of
coverage expected this week, after Energy and Commerce Committee
Chairman Henry Waxman unveils his complex climate and energy bill.
The meeting, a weekly confab for House press secretaries, was one of the
most well-attended since January, according to one participant.
The phrase "clean energy jobs" is the best way to explain the benefits
of climate change legislation, according to polling presented in
PowerPoint by Mellman.
Using "cap and trade" to describe the legislation - which creates an
auction market for carbon emissions - is a mistake, because voters find
the term confusing. Also to be avoided is "green jobs," a phrase popular
with environmentalists to describe careers in renewable energy, energy
efficiency and other types of sustainable technologies. Voters think the
term describes white-collar jobs for highly educated professors,
according to Democratic aides at the meeting.
A Rasmussen poll released on Monday found that just 24 percent of voters
correctly identified the cap-and-trade proposal as dealing with
environmental issues. Slightly more - 29 percent - thought the term was
about regulating Wall Street, and 17 percent thought it had to do with
health care reform. Thirty percent had no idea.