With just days left in his final term as president of the United States, Barack Obama is taking steps to safeguard the historic Paris climate agreement he helped secure — to the tune of $500 million.
On Tuesday, Obama transferred the sum to the Green Climate Fund, a trust created in 2010 to allow wealthy countries to financially assist developing nations in reducing emissions.
The United States has pledged a total of $3 billion to the fund. Combined with an earlier $500 million payment made in March, Tuesday's payment leaves the country with a balance of $2 billion — a debt of which President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to pay none.
Obama's decision to transfer the funds as the clock runs out on his presidency is a major victory for a group of petitioners who had pressured him to make the payment ahead of Trump's inauguration.
Tamar Lawrence-Samuel, one of the petition's leaders, told the Guardian the payment was an important signal to the incoming administration that climate advocates will not be easily silenced.
“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,” Lawrence-Samuel said. “This victory is the climate justice movement’s opening salvo to the Trump presidency. And we’re not going away.”
Activists seeking to curb the harmful effects of climate change still have a long road ahead of them. As president, Trump has pledged to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency and pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement. And as recently as 2012, he said he believed climate change was a hoax engineered by the Chinese.