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How the US Could Sink Paris Climate Talks

We’re less than a week away from the start of the COP21 climate talks in Paris and U.S. Republicans are making sure that the world knows President Obama won’t have their support. As Politico reports, Republican Senators are threatening to attach to an upcoming spending bill riders that would deny American contributions to a global climate slush fund:

“We want to make sure that any of these countries that think they’re going to have a check to cash because of an agreement that the president may make in Paris — that they shouldn’t cash the check just yet,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said of Republicans’ strategy.

Congress must pass a new spending bill by Dec. 11, when a stopgap measure expires. The simultaneous deadlines on each side of the Atlantic Ocean give Republicans a tool to derail a legacy-defining pact for the president and score a rare climate policy victory. They also significantly raise the stakes in this year’s game of shutdown chicken.

Climate financing, as this Green Climate Fund is often called, will likely be the most important topic discussed in Paris. Poorer countries essentially want monetary assurances from the developed world in exchange for their cooperation on curtailing emissions, but the U.S. legislature doesn’t want to play ball. That sends a clear message to the developing world: The leader of the free world can’t be relied upon to pay up. And without climate financing, it’s hard to imagine negotiators in Paris producing any sort of result worth the time and political capital already invested in the summit.

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