But cracks in that defensive posture are beginning to show. At last year’s climate summit, Scotland, the host country, became the first to commit money for a new loss and damage fund. This week, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, endorsed the idea, followed by cash pledges by Ireland, Denmark and Belgium. On Wednesday, Mr. Xie, the climate negotiator for China, currently the largest emitter on the planet, also backed the idea of a loss and damage fund but was careful to say that China would not contribute to it.
Many of the European countries stepping up to the plate have colonial ties to the developing nations seeking funds, a relationship that bolsters the argument for reparations in the eyes of some.
“The practice of colonialism transferred the rich resources of Asia and Africa to Europe to industrialize their countries, which is also the root cause of climate change — the consequences of which we, the poor countries, are forced to suffer,” President Ranil Wickremesinghe of Sri Lanka told the gathering this week. “Adding insult to injury, damages caused by extreme weather conditions are increasing and their impact is exceedingly costly.”
But in the United States, the idea of paying climate reparations to distant nations would be “an absolute political domestic disaster,” said Paul Bledsoe, a climate adviser under President Bill Clinton and now a lecturer at American University. He said it would “cripple” Mr. Biden’s 2024 re-election chances.
“America is culturally incapable of meaningful reparations,” Mr. Bledsoe said. “Having not made them to Native Americans or African Americans, there is little to no chance they will be seriously considered regarding climate impacts to foreign nations. It’s a complete non-starter in our domestic politics.”
A little more than half of registered voters believe the United States has at least some responsibility to increase its contributions to developing nations to help protect them against climate change, according to a Morning Consult/Politico survey released this week. But there was a clear partisan split; Democrats were twice as likely as Republicans to say that the United States needs to contribute more.
Squeezed on all sides, Mr. Biden and his advisers have been gingerly tiptoeing around the issue of money. Mr. Kerry has agreed only to discuss the idea of a loss and damage fund.