The U.S. Doubles Down on Climate Financing and Ambition at Paris

The United States will commit more than $800 million a year to financing climate adaptation efforts in developing countries, Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Wednesday. Kerry, speaking at the United Nations conference on climate change in Paris, also said the U.S. will join a coalition pushing for the most ambitious agreement.

Wednesday's announcement represents a doubling of last year's U.S. commitment to fund adaptation efforts and comes as negotiators in Paris continue to wrangle over how an agreement should deal with finance. Developed countries pledged in 2009 to send $100 billion annually to developing countries to support their climate change initiatives, but the details about how such a large figure would be achieved have remained unclear. The U.S. move was intended to provide some assurance for developing countries that such a figure would be reached.

"The U.S. not only recognizes our role in creating this problem but doing something about it," said Kerry, reiterating a statement made by President Obama last week. "The situation demands and this moment demands that we do not leave Paris without an ambitious...and durable agreement."

Read More: What to Know About the Paris Climate Change Conference

The U.S. had previously committed $3 billion to a United Nations fund to finance climate efforts in the developing world (a down payment of sorts showing commitment to future funding), though Republicans in Congress have vowed to block the money. The new commitment specifically funds efforts by developing countries to adapt their infrastructure, agriculture and health services to a warming climate—areas that countries often find more difficult to finance than programs that support renewable energy efforts. (Supporting adaptation tends to be costly—think higher sea walls and tougher bridges—while investing in renewable energy can be profitable).

Finance has been key sticking point as developing countries demand assurances that they will receive support from their developed counterparts when it comes to addressing climate change. Research from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) suggests that climate financing increased by $10 billion in 2014 to $62 billion. That's a significant jump but far short of the $100 billion promise. Negotiators from developing countries want to know that money will actually flow their way, and in a manner they can easily access, before signing off a deal.

Kerry also formally announced that the U.S. would join a "high ambition" coalition at the negotiations that includes the European Union and other countries. That group will push for an ambitious, lower ceiling for temperature rise, a strong mechanism of ensuring transparency in what countries pledge to do about climate change and a system by which countries improve upon their commitments every five years. Notably absent from the group are India and China, who fear that an overly ambitious deal might stymie their economic growth. "We didn't come to Paris to build a ceiling," Kerry said in his announcement. "We came to build a floor."

The speech, which comes as the Paris climate talks enter their final and most critical days, drew immediate praise from observers who say the address will provide momentum on key issues, particularly finance. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who is overseeing proceedings, cited the issue as one of three remaining areas of contention in remarks on Wednesday shortly after Kerry's speech.

Read More: How the U.S. Became an Unlikely Hero at the Paris Climate Summit

Kerry said in his speech that he remained optimistic that this conference, formally known as the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) would put the world on a pathway to dealing with climate change.

"We are seeing momentum for an agreement that has never existed," he said. "This COP may be the best course we have to correct the course of our planet."

Philippines: Ground Zero for Climate Disaster

Relief packs are distributed in a flooded district of Taguig, Phillipines on Oct. 12, 2009. Typhoon Ketsana, known in the Philippines as Tropical Storm Ondoy, devastated the region in 2009.
Relief packs are distributed in a flooded district of Taguig, Phillipines on Oct. 12, 2009. Typhoon Ketsana, known in the Philippines as Tropical Storm Ondoy, devastated the region in 2009.Veejay Villafranca
Relief packs are distributed in a flooded district of Taguig, Phillipines on Oct. 12, 2009. Typhoon Ketsana, known in the Philippines as Tropical Storm Ondoy, devastated the region in 2009.
Philippine Army soldiers carry the body of a victim trapped by floodwaters in the eastern part of Metro Manila in September 2009.
Residents salvage what they can after a a strong mudflow caused by Typhoon Ketsana ravaged their town in September 2009.
Pollution is visible on the Pasig River following Typhoon Ketsana on Sept. 28, 2009.
Residents wait for relief packs in Taguig city as floodwaters inundate their access to the town center on Oct. 10, 2009.
The town of Botolan is covered in a cloak of pyroclastic dust on Jan. 15, 2010, in Zambales, Philippines.
Construction workers work on repairs for the damaged dike in Botolan River after torrential rains triggered heavy flooding in the area in January 2010.
Families that have been displaced for several months due to stagnant floodwaters seek temporary shelter in a rundown factory on Oct. 23, 2012 in Laguna, Philippines.
Damaged religious icons are displayed at one of the churches in Eastern Samar, Philippines on Dec. 9, 2013.
The coast of Tanauan in Leyte, Philippines, on Dec. 10, 2013 after Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Typhoon Yolanda, struck the area.
Dolls hanging outside a damaged maternity clinic in Palo in December 2013. DISPLACED EARTH/SIGNOS SERIES 2009 - 2015 Photograph by Veejay Villafranca
Children play in a damaged village in San Joaquin, Leyte on Dec. 10, 2013.a
An aerial view of the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in Eastern Samar, Philippines on Dec. 6, 2013.
Evacuees board a military plane offering free transport from affected areas on Dec. 7, 2013.
Children take a dip along the coast of Leyte on June 30, 2014.
PHILIPPINES - CLIMATE CHANGE - DISPLACEMENT
A fisherman sets his net on April 24, 2014 in Tacloban City.
Protesters from different parts of Visayas cross the San Juanico Bridge on Nov. 7, 2014, to meet with other survivors of disasters converging to mark the first year anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan.
A clock is stopped at the time floodwaters reached the first story of a home in Palo in Leyte, shown on Feb. 10, 2014.
Residents go about their morning routines at a temporary bunkhouse in Tacloban City on April 26, 2014.
A damaged religious icon in Leyte, Philippines on Nov. 8, 2014.
A religious procession in the town where Typhoon Haiyan made first landfall, Feb. 11, 2014.
A call for help is painted on pillars in San Joaquin, Feb. 15, 2014.
A man lights candles on a mass grave on top of a roundabaout in Leyte, Philippines on Feb. 15, 2014.
Commuters wait for public transport heading to Tacloban City, Feb. 16, 2014.
A child sifts through ruble in Tacloban City in February 2014.
Performers wear native attire after entertaining guests on Feb. 10, 2015.
A child takes shelter from the heat with a cardboard panel along the coast of Tanauan on Oct, 7, 2015.
Performers rehearse their performance for the arrival of Pope Francis on Jan. 15, 2015 in Leyte, Philippines.
Relief packs are distributed in a flooded district of Taguig, Phillipines on Oct. 12, 2009. Typhoon Ketsana, known in th
... VIEW MORE

Veejay Villafranca
1 of 29
TIME may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice.