The package, which developing countries had sought for more than three decades, passed on the first day of talks in Dubai.
A new fund to help vulnerable countries hit by climate disasters should be up and running this year, after diplomats from nearly 200 countries on Thursday approved a draft plan on the first day of a United Nations global warming summit.
The early adoption of rules for the fund, which developing nations fought more than 30 years to create, was widely viewed as a positive sign for the two-week summit in Dubai. Sultan Al Jaber, the Emirati oil executive who is presiding over the conference, called the move a “significant milestone” and evidence that nations were ready to act with ambition on climate.
The United Arab Emirates and Germany each pledged $100 million toward the fund and the United Kingdom pledged about $76 million. Japan pledged $10 million. The European Union would contribute at least €225 million (about $245 million), Wopke Hoekstra, the E.U. climate commissioner, said on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
The United States promised $17.5 million, an amount that some activists criticized as too low for the world’s largest economy and biggest historic source of greenhouse gases.
“The initial funding pledges are clearly inadequate and will be a drop in the ocean compared to the scale of the need they are to address,” Mohamed Adow, director of Power Shift Africa, an environmental group, said in a statement. “In particular, the amount announced by the U.S. is embarrassing.”
A spokesman for John Kerry, President Biden’s special envoy for climate change, did not immediately respond to a question about the size of the American contribution.
While the initial pledges add up to about $549 million, climate-related damages are expected to cost developing countries between $280 billion and $580 billion per year by 2030.
Nations agreed to establish the so-called loss and damage fund at last year’s United Nations summit in Egypt.
That decision was widely considered a breakthrough on one of the longest-running disputes in United Nations climate talks: whether industrialized nations, whose high levels of greenhouse gas emissions have dangerously heated the planet, have an obligation to compensate the poorer nations that are least prepared to deal with climate-related weather disasters.
It was not until a few weeks before the Dubai talks that began Thursday, however, that rich and poor countries were able to strike a compromise on how to manage the fund. Nations will formally approve the blueprint at the end of the summit, known as COP28, on Dec. 12.
It calls for the loss and damage fund to be temporarily housed at the World Bank. Developing nations initially opposed that because the United States, which appoints the bank’s president, is viewed as having an outsize influence on it.
The United States also fought to ensure that long industrialized nations are not the only ones that pay into the fund. Under the rules, other countries like China and wealthy Gulf oil states also will be expected to contribute.
It remains unclear, though, whether the United States will make good on its own pledge. Republicans, who control the House, have consistently sought to block funding to help other nations address climate change.
“The United States shouldn’t spend another penny on crooked U.N. slush funds,” Senator John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming, said in a statement, adding, “the Biden Administration should instead focus on unleashing American energy and lowering energy prices for families here at home.”
David Waskow, director of the international climate initiative at the World Resources Institute, an environmental research group, said money to help nations that have been hit hardest by disasters is something Congress should want to fund. But, he said, “I’m not sure the politics of the moment would allow for that to happen.”