International climate finance has obvious humanitarian benefits — but Trump could be missing out on economic benefits too.
Recent floods and mudslides in Peru — driven by extreme precipitation linked to exceptionally warm waters off the coast — have devastated the country, claiming more than 100 lives and damaging 130,000 structures. The destruction is so extreme that the Peruvian government estimated immediate reconstruction will cost the country as much as $3 billion over the long term, and as much as $9 billion over the next five years.
In Colombia, similar precipitation triggered a flood that left parts of the southern city of Mocoa completely destroyed, and killed at least 293 people. After the flood, the president of Colombia issued a dire warning: the country needs to prepare for more disasters like this as climate change continues to fuel extreme precipitation.
“We are confronting a natural disaster caused by climate change,” he said, according to the New York Times. “We need to prepare because the rains that are coming will be more intense.”
The question of who should bear the costs of climate change—the literal financial costs of mitigating carbon emissions and adapting to the consequences of the changing climate—has plagued international negotiations for decades.
Before leaving office in January, President Barack Obama contributed $500 million to the Green Climate Fund — the United Nation’s tool for climate investment — bringing the total for U.S. contributions to $1 billion. The administration had promised to contribute $3 billion in total to the fund, with a spokesman describing it as a “critical tool that helps catalyze billions of dollars in public and private investment.”
But with the Trump administration now in charge of U.S. domestic and international climate policy, the United States’ appears ready to drastically reverse course. Both on the campaign trail and as president, Trump has pledged to stop making payments to both the Green Climate Fund and the Climate Investment Funds, and has threatened to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement altogether.
And while there are certainly strong humanitarian arguments to be made against such actions — the world’s poorest nations will be hardest hit by the impacts of climate change — financial experts are beginning to use a different tactic in arguing that the Trump administration should remain engaged in global finance: because it’s a good business decision for the United States.
“Getting involved in climate finance is good business for the United States,” James Bond, former senior adviser to the executive director of the Green Climate Fund, said at a Capitol Hill briefing on the benefits of foreign climate aid this week. “Supporting the Green Climate Fund is good business for the U.S.”
That’s because the Paris climate agreement — wherein 186 countries pledged to keep the world well below 2°C of warming above pre-industrial levels — triggered a surge of investor…