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Obama transfers US$500m to Green Climate Fund in bid to protect Paris deal from Trump

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US President Barack Obama has heeded calls to help secure the future of the historic Paris agreement by transferring a second US$500million instalment to the Green Climate Fund, just three days before he leaves office.

The fund was a key aspect of the Paris agreement signed in 2015, which aims to keep global warming “well below” 2C and aspires to keep warming to 1.5C.

Established in 2010 , it is financed by wealthy countries and used to assist developing countries with adaptation and mitigation. It was widely seen as a key measure to bring both rich and poor countries to the negotiating table.

The US committed to transferring US$3 billion to the fund. The new instalment leaves US$2 billion owing, with the incoming president, Donald Trump, expected to cease any further payments.

The move followed a large campaign, with more than 100 organisations and nearly 100,000 people calling for Obama to transfer the full $2.5 billion owed to the fund.

“The Obama administration is refusing to let president-elect Trump’s posse of oil barons and climate deniers dictate how the world responds to the climate crisis,” said Tamar Lawrence-Samuel of Corporate Accountability International, which led the campaign.

“Tens of thousands of people around the world called on President Obama to step up before Trump takes the keys of our government and tries to reverse decades of climate progress,” she said. “This victory is the climate justice movement’s opening salvo to the Trump presidency. And we’re not going away.”

The money is being drawn from the state department, the same way that the first transfer was, allowing it to be done using executive powers without congressional support.

Trump has previously described climate change as a Chinese-orchestrated hoax.

Trump’s nominee to lead the Interior Department broke with that depiction this week, arguing that he has seen tangible evidence the world is warming.

“The climate is changing; that’s indisputable,” Representative Ryan Zinke, a Republican from Montana, told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Zinke, who grew up near Glacier National Park, said he had watched the retreat of ice there during his lifetime.

Humans have influenced the climate, Zinke said. But, he said, there is debate about “what that influence is, and what can we do about it?”

Still, Trump’s transition teams are filled with activists who have argued that carbon dioxide is not affecting the Earth’s temperature and advocated against taking any actions to curb greenhouse gases. Zinke appeared to support some steps to address climate change although it wasn’t clear what that would entail: “I don’t believe it’s a hoax. I believe we should be prudent,” he said.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg