But cracks in this defensive stance are beginning to show. At last year’s climate summit, host country Scotland was the first country to pledge money for a new loss and damage fund. This week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen backed the idea, followed by pledges of money from Ireland, Denmark and Belgium. On Wednesday, Mr. Xie, the climate negotiator for China, currently the world’s largest emitter, also backed the idea of a loss and damage fund but cautiously said China would not contribute.
Many of the European countries leading the way have colonial ties to developing countries seeking funds, a relationship which some say bolsters the case for reparations.
“The practice of colonialism has shifted the rich resources of Asia and Africa to Europe in order to industrialize their countries, which is also the main cause of climate change – the consequences of which we, the poor countries, are suffering,” Sri Lanka’s President Ranil Wickremesinghe said the gathering this week. “In addition to injuries, damage from extreme weather conditions is increasing and its impact is extremely costly.”
But in the United States, the idea of paying climate compensation to distant nations would be “an absolute domestic disaster,” said Paul Bledsoe, climate adviser to President Bill Clinton and now a lecturer at American University. He said it would “cripple” Mr. Biden’s chances of re-election in 2024.
“America is culturally incapable of making meaningful amends,” Bledsoe said. “Because they were not made Native Americans or African Americans, there is little chance that they will be seriously considered in terms of climate impacts on foreign nations. It is a complete false start in our domestic politics.”
According to a Morning Consult/Politico poll released this week, just over half of registered voters believe the United States has at least some responsibility to increase its contributions to developing countries to protect them from climate change. But there was a clear partisan split; Democrats are twice as likely as Republicans to say the United States needs to contribute more.
Squeezed on all sides, Mr. Biden and his advisers have cautiously tiptoed around the money issue. Mr Kerry agreed to discuss only the idea of a loss and damage fund.