U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris announced Saturday in Dubai at the U.N. COP28 Climate Conference that the United States is pledging $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund — the world’s largest climate fund — created to help developing countries handle climate change.
“Around the world, there are those who seek to slow or stop our progress. Leaders who deny climate science, delay climate action and spread misinformation,” the vice president said.
The multibillion-dollar pledge to the climate fund, however, first must be approved by the U.S. Congress, which is divided on the contribution.
Also Saturday, the U.S. made a commitment to phase out all the country’s coal-fired power plants when it joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance. Coal is the single largest contributor to the climate crisis, according to the alliance.
Sharp differences were laid bare Friday at COP28 regarding the future use of fossil fuels.
One day after COP28 president, United Arab Emirates’ Sultan al-Jaber — also the head of the UAE state oil company — opened the meeting with a call to not eliminate but phase down the use of fossil fuels, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for the opposite.
Addressing the delegates, Guterres said, “We cannot save a burning planet with a fire hose of fossil fuel,” and he called for the acceleration of “a just and equitable transition to renewable energy.”
The U.N. chief was referring to the 2015 Paris Climate agreement, which calls for efforts to limit the rise of global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, saying the only way that goal can be reached is if the world stops burning “all fossil fuels. Not reduce. Not abate.”
The disagreements over fossil fuel use prompted a prominent member of the COP28 advisory board to offer her resignation Friday.
Reuters news service reported that former Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine resigned in a letter to the COP28’s president, al-Jaber, saying reports alleging the UAE planned to use the conference to discuss possible fossil fuel and other commercial deals were “deeply disappointing” and threatened to undermine the credibility of the multilateral negotiation process.
Reuters reported the letter went on to say the actions undermine the COP presidency and the process as a whole.
Earlier this week, the BBC, working with the Center for Climate Reporting, reported that leaked briefing documents revealed plans for UAE officials to discuss fossil fuel deals with 15 nations. Al-Jaber strongly denied the report.
Also Friday, Britain’s King Charles III addressed the conference, saying that the world was “dreadfully off track” on its climate goals and that he “prays with all his heart” the conference will be another critical turning point toward genuine transformational action.
In his remarks Friday, Jordan’s King Abdullah II linked climate change with the crisis in Gaza, saying they cannot talk about climate change “in isolation from the humanitarian tragedies unfolding around us.” He said thousands have been killed, injured or displaced in a region on the front lines of climate change, which, he said, magnifies the devastation.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in his remarks, linked climate change to the global food crisis, citing statistics showing the global demand for food is estimated to increase by 50% by the year 2050, while the climate crisis is expected to reduce crop yields by as much as 30% over that same period.
During its opening day Thursday, conferees did agree to a new $420 million fund to help poorer, vulnerable nations cope with the cost of disasters caused by climate change, such as droughts, floods and rising sea levels.
U.S. climate envoy John Kerry called the agreement “a great way to start” the conference.
The day one deal could pave the way for further agreements at COP28.
“COP” stands for “Conference of the Parties” to the original U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. There are currently 198 parties to the convention.
The current COP runs through December 12.
Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.