Sen. Tom Udall vowed to protect $500 million of U.S. climate aid from cuts sought by Republican lawmakers as a delegation of 10 Democratic senators endorsed efforts by 195 nations to forge a new United Nations-sponsored global deal on climate change.
"That would be included in the omnibus, and we are going to protect those" appropriations, the New Mexico Democrat said Saturday in an interview in Paris, referring to spending legislation being prepared in Congress. Udall, a New Mexico Democrat, was in Paris where two weeks of UN discussions on global warming are at their midpoint.
The funding would be the first installment of U.S. President Barack Obama's $3 billion pledge to the Green Climate Fund set up by the UN to channel assistance to poorer nations so they can cut greenhouse gases and adapt to the ravages of a warmer climate. Such financing is seen by developing countries as a crucial component in the new deal and say rich nations must deliver on their promises in order to build trust.
Obama is seeking an international agreement that would be mostly legally binding, while specific targets and deadlines for cutting emissions wouldn't. That approach would let the administration bypass a hostile Senate. Republicans want the deal presented to the Senate for approval, and are blocking climate finance as a bargaining chip.
Congress won't allow the funding "until the forthcoming international climate agreement is submitted to the Senate," a group of Republican senators wrote to Obama in a letter last month.
Udall also said that a package that would extend tax breaks may be rolled into an omnibus spending bill for fiscal 2016 that appropriators are negotiating. The package includes an extension of the Production Tax Credit, which pays wind-farm owners 2.3 cents for every kilowatt-hour of power produced, and is seen by the wind industry as vital to maintain a push into renewable energy.
"I've recently heard discussion that they may well be combined together, but I'm not so sure that that's the best idea," Udall said. "These are very different issues and to the extent that we focus on an issue that's very complicated, mushing it all together I think is very difficult."
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