The Biden administration wants companies to fund renewable energy projects in developing countries in a way that allows companies to calculate the resulting reductions in greenhouse gases against their climate goals.
John Kerry, President Biden’s climate envoy, plans on Wednesday to announce a program his advisers say could pump tens of billions of private dollars into the economies of developing countries struggling to replace coal, oil and gas with wind, solar and other renewable energy.
The programme, known in climate circles as the Carbon Offset Scheme, is the product of months of discussions between Mr. Kerry and major corporations as well as philanthropic groups such as the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bezos Earth Fund, according to several people involved in the talks who were not authorized to discuss it publicly.
“We need to increase funding by huge orders of magnitude than it is now,” said Nathaniel Keohan, president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, an environmental group that supports the plan.
But the initiative was met with skepticism from some European countries and UN Secretary-General’s staff because they felt the plan lacked details and was rushed, according to multiple people familiar with the discussions.
Some influential US environmental groups briefed on the strategy by the State Department, including the Natural Resources Defense Council and the World Resources Institute, were not supporting the plan either because they feared it would actually undermine efforts to reduce global emissions to zero, activists said.
Activists said that as other countries step up public funds to tackle climate change, the Biden administration faces the prospect that Republicans will make gains in Tuesday’s midterm elections And withholding new credits, he has been silent about any plans to provide funding.
“There is no place for carbon offsets in a world that is already on fire, underwater and facing increasing climate losses and damage,” said Rachel Cletts, director of climate policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, an environmental group.
The power transition accelerator, as the program is called, is expected to be completed within the next year, according to Secret one-page draft From the plan obtained by the New York Times.
According to an administration official, the strategy includes enticing companies that have made climate pledges to buy carbon offsets — essentially credits for greenhouse gas pollution. The money will go towards reducing emissions in a country’s energy sector, developing renewable energy and building resilience to climate impacts. The companies, in turn, will get credit for some of the emissions they have pledged to reduce.
While it remains unclear which countries might join, it is targeting places like South Africa and Indonesia that have been struggling to switch away from fossil fuels.
The design is unique. Instead of using offsets to fund individual projects, the program requires countries or provinces to develop emissions plans in order to attract investors.
This is intended to prevent problems that have stymied carbon market plans in the past, in which a polluting company might shut down a fossil fuel plant in one location, get credits for doing so, and then open a similar plant in another, the administration official said.
A key feature of the new program is that fossil fuel companies will not be allowed to join, at least initially, the administration official said. This is due to concerns that oil and gas companies could claim to be improving their performance while continuing to produce emission-generating fossil fuels.
Supporters said they are working to ensure the plan has strict standards but said the private sector needs to play a role.
“If we’re going to shut down coal plants, we believe voluntary carbon markets have a role to play,” Stacy Cobbs, a spokeswoman for the Bezos Earth Fund, said in a statement.
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