Lawmakers Push Biden to End Public Financing for 'Dangerous' Fossil Fuel Projects Overseas

"With U.S. leadership on international clean energy investments, we can stop financing the climate crisis, support domestic clean energy jobs, and join the global community in moving away from fossil fuel investments."

May 19, 2021

As representatives from across the U.S. government testified Wednesday at a House hearing on global climate finance, 13 lawmakers led by Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Earl Blumenauer sent a letter urging President Joe Biden to direct federal agencies to "end all new public financing support for fossil fuel projects overseas within 90 days."

The letter (pdf) comes after Biden marked Earth Day last month with a Leaders Summit on Climate, during which he announced an International Climate Finance Plan that Oil Change International senior campaigner Collin Rees said at the time was "a welcome step, but the lack of firm commitments falls short of what's needed."

Markey (D-Mass.), Blumenauer (D-Ore.), and their colleagues write that the summit "was an important first step in reestablishing our rightful role as a bulwark against the existential threat that climate change poses," and praise Biden's January executive order directing agencies to figure out how to cut off support for high-carbon projects.

"The details and implementation of that strategy are critical to our shared goal of securing a more stable and healthy planet," they continue, noting that climate science shows the importance of rapidly ditching "outdated and dangerous" fossil fuels to meet the Paris agreement goal of limiting global heating to 1.5°C by 2100.

The letter emphasizes the need to prevent new gas- and oil-fired power plants and retire existing facilities worldwide—adding that "due to the short-term warming potency of methane, natural gas can no longer be considered a climate solution," and continued support for it "diverts much-needed resources" from renewable energy.

"The continued financing of fossil fuels is particularly concerning given that current investments solidify carbon-polluting energy infrastructure, locking partners into decades of unnecessarily polluted electricity," the letter says. "These actions are counterintuitive to cutting greenhouse gases and empowering the global workforce of the future."

Ending support for new fossil fuel projects abroad, the lawmakers highlight, will not only "help grow the demand for American-made clean energy projects," but also "align the United States with some of our closest allies in this fight" against the global climate emergency and for a "cleaner, greener, and more sustainable future."

According to the letter:

By providing direction to the U.S. Export-Import Bank, U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, U.S. Trade and Development Agency, Millennium Challenge Corporation, the United States Agency for International Development, and other relevant institutions, the United States can take action today. This strategy should also apply to U.S. participation in multilateral institutions, including the multilateral development banks and the International Monetary Fund. U.S. foreign assistance programs should incorporate adequate support for low-income countries dependent on fossil fuel exports, and workers and communities dependent on fossil fuels for their livelihoods and local economic base, to ensure a just and orderly transition away from fossil fuels. This transition should include capacity building, technical assistance, and training in the use and adoption of green technologies, which offers new opportunities for a more equitable and inclusive energy industry of the future.With U.S. leadership on international clean energy investments, we can stop financing the climate crisis, support domestic clean energy jobs, and join the global community in moving away from fossil fuel investments.
"We thank you for your leadership on addressing the climate crisis," the letter concludes, "and look forward to continuing to work together on this issue."

Blumenauer and Markey have been key leaders of federal climate legislation. In March, the pair reintroduced a bill to close a Big Oil tax loophole. The previous month, Blumenauer joined with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to propose the National Climate Emergency Act of 2021.

Markey is the lead Senate sponsor of the recently reintroduced Green New Deal Resolution, led by Ocasio-Cortez in the House. He also unveiled the Transform, Heal, and Renew by Investing in a Vibrant Economy (THRIVE) Act with Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) last month, amid national debates about an infrastructure package.

Signatories to the new letter are Sanders and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) as well as Reps. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.), Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).

The message to Biden—who recently committed to halving U.S. emissions over the next decade—comes as sciences continues to demonstrate the damage of human-caused global heating and just a day after the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned that reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 will require an "unprecedented transformation of how energy is produced, transported, and used globally," meaning an immediate transition away from extracting and burning fossil fuels.

"Finally the IEA is starting to get it: If we're to have a fighting chance of meeting the objectives of the Paris agreement, the world needs to phase out fossil fuels," Greenpeace International executive director Jennifer Morgan said Tuesday. "We can't even burn—or afford to burn—all the reserves we've currently got."

By:  Jessica Corbett
Source: Commons Dreams