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State Department Funds Energy Assistance Overseas While Funding is Cut at Home

Foreign aid dollars fund reforestation - but not in Afghanistan

Monday 28 February 2011, by Matthew J. Nasuti (Former U.S. Air Force Captain)

President Obama’s current Fiscal Year 2011, budget sets aside $1.9 billion for State Department “climate change” programs. This included $200 million for “clean energy,” $100 million for “global engagement,” $90 million for a “pilot program for climate resilience” and $1 billion contribution for a United Nations program called REDD+ to fight deforestation.

This is a stunning 38% increase in funding from the State Department’s FY 2010, climate change budget. That budget was itself a 300% increase over FY2009, funding. This effort to provide jobs, plant trees and dole out massive amounts of energy assistance to foreign countries comes at the same time as the Obama Administration has proposed cutting $2.5 billion from its budget for fuel assistance to America’s poor. There is no evidence that any of these funds are targeted for Afghanistan.

The REDD+ program deserves special mention. The initials stand for “Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.” The program sets up a complex set of rules for “carbon storage” and emissions reduction. Among other things it pays logging companies and communities not to cut trees. A study by the Jakarta Post, entitled “The Indonesian Deforestation Moratorium - the Devil in the Detail,” published on February 21, 2011, found that the REDD+ is filled with loopholes, exceptions and exemptions regarding what is a forest, what is carbon storage, how it is measured and how to define emission levels. The Post’s investigation concluded that the existing REDD rules have not prevented “business as usual.”

There are over a dozen major United Nations meetings and conferences each year devoted to REDD. The boondoggles begin in January with the 14-day UN Forum on Forests and conclude in December with the 11-day Second Sessional Meeting on climate change. REDD appears to do little but fund thousands of bureaucrats, generate new rules that accomplish nothing and pay for expensive foreign travel for diplomats to conferences in exotic locations.

Earlier this month Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued some perfunctory criticism of President Obama’s plan to cut domestic fuel assistance for the poor but he has refused to criticize the State Department’s climate programs. Despite the fact that the entire multi-billion dollar climate budget is unfocused, misdirected and of dubious merit, Senator Kerry has refused to use his Committee to investigate this waste. The reason appears to be that the Obama Administration has cleverly co-opted Senator Kerry, by casting him on several occasions as a “special ambassador” to Afghanistan and Pakistan, thus effectively neutering him as a State Department critic.

On January 24, 2011, President Hamid Karzai, after receiving a report from a national environmental commission he created, gave a speech to the Afghan Parliament in which he criticized the destruction by NATO forces of between 2,000 and 3,000 fruit and other trees in Band-e Sardah District of Ghazni Province. These events were partially confirmed by NATO Headquarters which admitted that it paid out $1.5 million this year to 800 claimants for destruction in Ghazni.

On February 3, 2011, President Karzai gave a similar speech to a environmental sustainability conference in New Delhi in which he made the following statement:

“Afghanistan has suffered 30 years of unrest and 30 years of massive destruction of the environment, our trees, rivers, soil and all we depend on.”

He went on to detail the deforestation, pollution and decline in water supplies that has resulted. His speech mirrors the three-part environmental series published by the Kabul Press on April 25, May 2 and May 4, 2010. It detailed some of the massive and unnecessary environmental damage to Afghanistan resulting from careless and in some cases illegal dumping, burning and other releases of hazardous, toxic and even radioactive waste by the U.S. military. Despite the continuing damage, there is no evidence that the State Department plans to use any of its billion dollar fund for reforestation and reclamation efforts in Afghanistan. The destruction of the Afghan countryside simply continues.

The State Department’s climate change program is but one of thousands of U.S. Government programs that are riddled with waste and mismanagement.

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