The Biden administration plans to use taxpayer funds to inspire and support young climate activists in developing countries—even as it acknowledges that young people suffer from "climate-related mental health conditions."
President Joe Biden's U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) last year released its 2022-2030 climate strategy, which outlines a $150 billion "whole-of-Agency approach" to building an "equitable world with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions." Included in that effort is a pledge to support "behavior change and communications campaigns" that "encourage youth's active participation" in the climate movement. Young people, the agency says, "have emerged in recent years as key actors … in demanding government action to tackle the climate crisis," prompting USAID to increase its funding for "youth-led organizations" working to fight climate change in at least 40 partner countries.
Still, that effort comes with challenges. While young people make great climate activists, they also experience "a broad range of climate-related mental health conditions," according to the agency's strategy document. Any effort to support young climate activists, then, must also include support for "programs at scale that address these issues." USAID's strategy document specifically calls to recognize the "growing importance" of young people suffering from "eco-anxiety," which the American Psychology Association describes as "the chronic fear of environmental cataclysm that comes from observing the seemingly irrevocable impact of climate change."
The USAID plan reflects Biden's government-wide mandate to fight climate change. Just one week after taking office, Biden in January 2021 issued an executive order calling on all government agencies to "combat the climate crisis with bold, progressive action." Even the Department of Veterans Affairs responded in August 2021 by releasing a "Climate Action Plan," and USAID—which had not released a new climate strategy since 2012—followed suit roughly a year later.
At the heart of the agency's climate strategy is a concern over increased energy consumption in developing nations, which USAID says will grow by 70 percent in the next three decades. In order to avoid the "longer-term emissions trajectories" that come with that energy consumption growth, the agency says it must promote green energy and elevate young climate activist voices in "emerging economies." For Daniel Turner, founder and executive director of energy advocacy group Power the Future, such a strategy "punishes the developing world by refusing them to have what we have, which is the prosperity that comes from fossil fuels."
"It's just horrifying to think we spend tax dollars, giving it to poor countries, to create more Greta Thunbergs," Turner told the Washington Free Beacon. "There's nothing charitable about that—if anything, it's the epitome of first world privilege."
USAID did not return a request for comment. The agency says it exists to provide "timely and effective humanitarian response," especially through "disaster relief and lifesaving assistance amidst complex crises." In many cases, however, the agency's money supports more controversial causes.
In November, for example, Biden's USAID announced a $78,000 grant to a Palestinian activist group whose leaders praised a man who murdered a U.S. military attaché and participated in a celebration for a Palestinian terrorist group. The agency in late 2021 also sent millions of dollars to EcoHealth Alliance, the research group that funded bat virus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Biden in January 2021 tapped former Obama aide Samantha Power to head USAID. Power quickly touted her work "helping countries adapt to a warming climate" and later said climate change is "sexist" because women are "much more likely … to be killed by natural and climate disasters." USAID's climate work has seen Power travel the world—in March, the Democrat filmed a correspondence from a Vietnamese fish farm, where she said farmers are "already feeling the effects of climate change." Power also met with Iraq's foreign minister in February, not to discuss issues such as ISIS terrorism, but to praise the nation's "ongoing work to address climate change."
Published under: Biden Administration , Climate Change , Feature , Samantha Power , USAID