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NEWS: Is channelling green climate funds to national and local governments risky or smart?

Annelieke Douma and Anouk Franck of Both ENDS provide an NGO perspective on this week’s debates on the Green Climate Fund

The Board of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) is meeting this week in Songdo, South Korea. Access modalities, the ways in which the funds will be disbursed, is one of the issues on the agenda. This is a key issue for debate as it will largely determine in what directions the funds will flow and who will benefit.

Both ENDS and partners argue that access to funds for local actors is crucial for reaching those most vulnerable to climate change and to facilitate scaling-up of locally grounded climate solutions. To ensure that local knowledge and priorities are integrated in GCF-supported climate projects and programmes, the GCF should both directly finance local initiatives and ensure that national level strategies are formulated through multi-stakeholder processes.

Our publication Local actors are ready to act  presents six views of GCF Board members, climate finance experts and Southern civil society organisations on the opportunities of access by local and subnational actors to climate funds and the role of fiduciary standards.

Oxford professor Benito Müller, Yacoubou Bio-Sawe, advisor to the West-African GCF board member and Ken Kinney, of civil society organization Development Institute in Ghana, all agree that local initiatives are vital in the design of climate change strategies. According to Kinney, “local organisations, both governmental and non-governmental should be put in the driver’s seat when designing and executing climate policies”.

Bio-Sawe adds that “the proximity of local organisations to the communities affected by climate change is a huge bonus towards the solution of adaptation challenges.” The central idea put forward is that democratic legitimacy is required for sound funding decisions, and that this is typically only given at the national and local level.

What is striking is that none of the interviewees see fiduciary standards as a major stumbling block for implementing direct access. Pratim Roy of Indian civil society organisation Keystone Foundation, for example, shows he has had no problem in meeting fiduciary standards of large funders such as the EU. Also Dima Reda and Mikko Ollikainen of the Adaptation Fund explain that, although standards are strict, it is possible, with sufficient support, to ensure organisations comply. Their flexible and supportive approach towards accreditation can be an example for the GCF, which, in its Governing Instrument explicitly agrees to focus on readiness and capacity support.

Dipak Dasgupta, board member from India maintains that “the basis has to be trust. That is fundamental […] We should decisively move away from the centralised, top-down, bureaucratic models of the past.” Müller adds that “effective mainstreaming of coherent policies is impossible without the authority to decide over the money”.

To sum it up, national and sub-national institutions need direct access to the GCF funds to facilitate a real change towards climate-proof development and sustainable adaptation. This might entail a certain level of risk, but there is no way around it. The key to minimising this risk is the willingness of the GCF to invest in building the capacity of these institutions so that in the medium to long term they can comply with the fiduciary standards and use the funds in the most effective way.


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