The Biden administration plans to spend up to $1 million in taxpayer funds on a project to help disabled people in the Central Asian country of Tajikistan become "climate leaders," documents show.
President Joe Biden's U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) on March 9 announced a grant notice seeking proposals for a "Disability-Inclusive Climate Action" project in Tajikistan. That project, a USAID document shows, aims to ensure disabled people in the Central Asian nation are included "in the development of climate change response and mitigation policies." In doing so, USAID hopes to help disabled Tajikistanis become "climate leaders, effectively influence climate change response, and ensure that climate action by governments and other actors is informed by and responsive to the unique ideas and contributions of persons with disabilities."
The project—which USAID will fund to the tune of at least $300,000 and up to $1 million—comes months after the agency 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 the effort is a pledge to strengthen the "diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility of the climate workforce" through taxpayer-funded programs supporting gay, female, indigenous, and disabled people, among other "marginalized and underrepresented populations."
The agency's strategy has already angered Republicans, who argue that the Biden administration's overseas climate spending is a waste of taxpayer dollars. Sen. Rick Scott (R., Fla.) and Rep. Ben Cline (R., Va.), for example, hammered Biden for wasteful spending after a Monday Washington Free Beacon report revealed that USAID plans to use public funds to inspire young climate activists in developing countries.
"American tax dollars should be spent supporting Americans, not overseas climate activists," Scott said. "American taxpayer dollars should not be used to build an army of Green New Deal activists around the world," Cline added.
USAID did not return a request for comment.
Biden has placed climate change at the center of every facet of his administration. In January 2021, the Democrat issued an executive order demanding his administration "combat the climate crisis with bold, progressive action that combines the full capacity of the federal government with efforts from every corner of our nation, every level of government, and every sector of our economy."
Government agencies that seemingly have little to do with combating climate change responded to the order by releasing climate plans of their own. The Department of Veterans Affairs, for example, in August 2021 unveiled its "Climate Action Plan"—which pledged to respond to the "projected impacts of climate change" by making its buildings more "climate-resilient."
Tajikistan was once a Soviet Socialist Republic and is now the poorest nation in Central Asia. The predominantly Muslim country is bordered by Afghanistan to the south and China to the east. Roughly two years after Biden's disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal saw the Taliban seize power, the militant group has expanded its presence in Tajikistan—it took control of an Afghan consulate in an eastern Tajikistan city two months ago, according to a report.
While USAID has long operated in Tajikistan through an office in the nation's capital, Dushanbe, that presence has not stopped the country from accepting investment from its eastern neighbors. Tajikistan in 2021 approved a Chinese-funded military base, and one year later, the two nations reached an agreement to conduct joint military drills. USAID's climate grant proposal, however, makes clear that it will not consider funding any program that comes with "significant infrastructure or construction activities"—instead of building facilities that are accessible for disabled people, the grant says, the USAID project will "empower persons with disabilities to influence the outcomes of infrastructure or construction activities" on their own.
USAID was formed under then-president John F. Kennedy in 1961 and exists to provide "timely and effective humanitarian response" and "disaster relief and life-saving assistance amidst complex crises." Still, the agency's spending does not always reflect that anodyne mission. The agency in 2021 sent millions of dollars to the research group that funded bat virus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and in November, it announced a $78,000 grant to a Palestinian activist group whose leaders openly praised terrorists, the Free Beacon reported.
USAID's emphasis on climate change has come under former Obama aide Samantha Power, whom Biden tapped in January 2021 to head the agency. In some cases, that emphasis seems to have kept Power from discussing more pressing humanitarian issues. After Power met in February with Iraq's foreign minister, for example, USAID released a readout that did not mention the words "ISIS" or "terrorism" but did praise Iraq for its work addressing "the impacts of climate change."