The U.N. Green Climate Fund is not a ‘massive wealth redistribution scheme’

Fox News personality Sean Hannity devoted a segment of his show this week to climate change. He brought on talking heads Monica Crowley and Bill Cunningham to discuss how all the people decrying fake news are perpetuating the myth of climate change.

The conversation eschewed the scientific consensus on the issue and raised some equally dubious claims. The most significant came from Crowley, who characterized global efforts to support low-income countries adapt to climate change as a “massive wealth redistribution scheme.”

“But more importantly, Sean, as I tried to say, it’s about taking wealth from wealthy individuals in the Western world and wealthy countries and transferring that wealth to the third world, and elsewhere, according to how the global elites see fit,” she said. “This is nothing to do with the climate. This is nothing to do with the environment.”

Crowley is likely referring to the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund. It started as a U.S. pledge in Copenhagen in 2009 to help raise $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poor countries deal with climate change. The fund was established the following year. President Barack Obama pledged $3 billion for the next four years to the fund, a significant portion of the more than $10 billion pledged by more than 40 countries by 2018.

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The fund represents a recognition that the U.S., Europe and other leading economies are the biggest contributors to the greenhouse gases that cause climate change. It is the responsibility for those countries to take active steps that will reduce emissions and slow the pace of global warming. Reducing global emissions also means that developing countries have to take steps to industrialize without relying too much on fossil fuels.

World leaders recognized that it is hypocritical to set out emissions rules for developing countries when the wealthiest countries benefited from no limits. Investments in alternative energies are crucial to ensuring developing countries can continue to improve without increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

There is also the matter of impact. Climate change hurts the world’s poorest people the most. Rains will become less predictable, typhoons will be stronger, and droughts more frequent in subtropical regions said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Investments are needed now to help people living in those areas take steps to better cope with these challenges.

That money has to come from somewhere. Low- and middle-income countries already struggle to meet the needs of their citizens in areas like health care and education. Climate-related spending is a lower priority, meaning the kinds of necessary preventative investments are unlikely to happen.

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The Green Climate Fund helps fill the gap. Importantly, its budget comes from the countries that created the global problem to help the countries suffering from its consequences. It does have its problems. Critics say it is slow to give money to help countries. It took until this July for the fund to finally disburse money, $256.6 million for nine proposals. Another 10 proposals worth $745 million were approved in October.

Even after the approvals, the money is not immediately sent out. Only one project received funding as of mid-October. Crowley is right on the point that money is going from wealthy countries to support poor ones. She is wrong about the reasons.

Climate change is a real problem. Not “fake news” and “propaganda,” as characterized by Hannity. The Green Climate Fund does not redistribute wealth, for the countries responsible for a global problem to aid the countries harmed by it. Characterizing it as a baseless scheme to rob from the rich and give to the poor is false.

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Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]humanosphere.org.