The US launches a green transition program for the Global South

The US launches a green transition program for the Global South


The United States on Wednesday launched a partnership with private funds aimed at supporting renewable energy transitions in developing countries, based on a carbon credit scheme criticized by climate activists.

The government program, launched at the COP27 climate conference in Egypt along with the Bezos Earth Fund and the Rockefeller Foundation, would help emerging economies attract finance “to support their clean energy transition,” Washington said.

Companies like Microsoft and Pepsi that have expressed interest in the plan would invest in renewable energy projects, which would allow countries to demonstrate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that could then be sold back to those companies as carbon credits.

“Our intention is to leverage the carbon market to deploy capital … to accelerate the transition from dirty to clean energy,” said US Climate Commissioner John Kerry, promising “safeguards” against greenwashing.

Kerry said he hoped the project, which Chile and Nigeria could already join, would get underway within a year.

Climate activists have criticized the US program, which was launched a day after a UN panel of experts found that carbon credits should not be used to “offset” emissions, rather than actually reducing them.

– “Accounting Trick” –

The Earth has warmed by an average of nearly 1.2 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times, provoking an accelerating onslaught of climate change impacts such as storms, floods and heat waves.

As part of the Paris Climate Agreement, countries have agreed to limit warming to well below 2°C, preferably 1.5°C.

That more ambitious target requires halving global emissions by 2030 and reducing them to net zero by mid-century, according to scientists.

“We need to see deep emissions cuts in both the Global North and South – not rich polluting companies in the North paying for the privilege of further destroying the planet,” said Mohamed Adow of think tank Power Shift Africa.

“These carbon offsets are an accounting trick that creates loopholes for polluters to continue polluting the environment.”

Harjeet Singh of the Climate Action Network told AFP that similar programs have not helped reduce emissions in the past.

The UN expert report said some offsets could be effective, like supporting the energy transition in developing countries – but stressed that this should only be an additional measure after companies reduce their own emissions.

Kerry acknowledged that previous abuses of carbon credits had “discredited” these instruments in the eyes of many.

He said the program is only open to companies willing to commit to short-term reduction targets as well.

“We believe that past mistakes shouldn’t stop us from using a powerful tool to direct private capital to where it’s needed most.”

Angela Churie Kallhauge of the US-based nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund said the program could help drive the energy transition.

“We’ve talked for so long about the need to scale – here is a great opportunity to explore and innovate.”

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