U.S. spending bill does not block climate fund payment

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department will be able to deliver its first payment of $500 million to the United Nations Green Climate Fund, after lawmakers agreed on a federal fiscal deal that does not include language to block it.

In the months leading up to the U.N. climate change summit in Paris, which concluded on Saturday with a landmark deal putting 195 countries on a path to cut their greenhouse gas emissions, Republicans in Congress vowed to block U.S. climate aid.

The United States last year pledged $3 billion for the Green Climate Fund, to be used by poor and climate-vulnerable countries to adopt cleaner energy technologies and build their resistance against the impact of climate change.

Opponents of a U.N. climate deal threatened to block federal funds for climate aid, arguing that Congress first needs to scrutinize the Paris agreement before it releases funds.

But congressional negotiators on Tuesday wrapped up a sprawling deal to keep the U.S. government operating through next September, while setting new policies, including repealing a 40-year-old ban on oil exports in exchange for a multi-year extension of wind and solar tax credits.

One Democratic congressional aide said that since the spending bill was silent on the Green Climate Fund, the State Department should be able to make its first $500 million payment in 2016.

“This is a rebuke to those congressional extremists who tried to play politics with desperately needed money to help the world’s poor take climate action,” said Karen Orenstein of Friends of the Earth.

Under the Paris Climate Agreement, rich nations committed to deliver $100 billion a year in climate aid beyond 2020, and use that figure as a “floor” for further support agreed by 2025.

Reporting by Valerie Volcovici in Washington; Editing by Dan Grebler