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OPINION: The Green Climate Fund – ready for take off

The Green Climate Fund now has the basic systems and procedures in place for donors to start pledging money. It’s like an aircraft ready for take-off, but where will it land? asks Anouk Franck of  BothENDS.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is being set up to play a pivotal role in disbursing the committed $100 billion a year in climate finance from developed to developing countries in support of climate action. The objective of the GCF is to promote a paradigm shift towards low-emissions and climate-resilient development pathways, in the context of sustainable development.

If the GCF is to reach this goal and live up to its commitment to be country-driven and to promote stakeholder engagement, it should go without saying that Southern voices are well-represented in the decision making process and all relevant stakeholders will be able to benefit equally from the future funds.

The reality is different: at the GCF board meetings, Northern representatives, both from government and civil society, far outnumber Southern representatives. With the support of CDKN, Dutch environmental organisation BothENDS and six Southern partners have actively participated in the GCF board meetings, to counter this trend. Their objective is to ensure that the GCF is directly accessible to subnational stakeholders, including local authorities, civil society organisations (CSOs) and knowledge institutions, in order for them to design and implement sustainable adaptation strategies.

The importance of country ownership and the role of CSOs has been acknowledged by different decision makers. As a Ghanaian official of the Environmental Protection Agency indicated: “The issue of climate change financing is crucial but our decision makers are yet to grasp the essence and I expect CSOs to continue this advocacy.”

The Board member representing the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tosi Mpanu Mpanu, asserts that: ‘”In Bali, I have stressed the importance of strengthening the national capacities, strategies and institutions, specifically through the National Designated Authority (NDA) or focal point.…country ownership should be strengthened with targeted support to build the national level coordinating instrument for the GCF; the NDA.”

One year down the road, we are satisfied that country ownership and multi-stakeholder participation are still on the GCF agenda, although more needs to be done by the GCF to put the money where their mouth is. The last GCF meeting, which took place in Songdo in May 2014, was an important one for this agenda.

Bare bones structure of the GCF completed
In Songdo, the bare bone of the fund has been established. Agreement was reached on the Fund’s ‘Results, Risk management and Investment’ framework as well its structure, project approval process, guiding procedures for accreditation and safeguards. This allows the Fund to present itself to the outside world.

Donors will now have a sufficient notion of what the Fund will look like and can start pledging money. In other words, the Fund is ready for take-off. However, specific features and details are still to be decided upon. These will determine what the actual flight will look like and in what places it eventually can and will land.

Engineering continues
Both ENDS and its Southern partners have a very clear vision of where the funds should land: in the most vulnerable areas, and to the direct benefit of those people who are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change or most in need of funds that support clean energy options for the poor.

The detailed aircraft design features that are essential for this purpose are: country ownership, direct access en multi-stakeholder participation. In other words: countries should ideally be equipped to decide on the country-specific priorities in need of support (country ownership). So the GCF Board should not approve all projects itself or work with international intermediaries like the World Bank, but channel the lion’s share of the funds to the countries to decide (direct access). Country ownership however does not only refer to the governments; it involves many different stakeholders at all levels; from the national to the grassroots level. To make sure the priorities and initiatives of local actors are taken into account they should actively participate in decision-making processes at all levels (multi-stakeholder participation).

Further investment needed in essential features – they are not spare parts!
Country ownership, direct access and multi-stakeholder participation are all elements the GCF says it is committed to, but they do not automatically find their way into the decisions taken by the Board. Two instances of decisions taken in Songdo illustrate this point:

First, a decision was taken in Songdo on the project and programme Approval Process to add a so-called stage 0 of this process. In stage 0 National Designated Authorities or focal points are asked to propose a country work programme to the GCF. This prevents the Fund from approving projects that do not fit with the priorities identified in a country. We wished that this process would be tied to a multi-stakeholder consultation process, but this is not a requirement as yet. Possibly this can still be decided at the next meeting, where best practices for NDAs will be considered. But so far there is reluctance on the part of the GCF to “impose” criteria for NDAs.

Second, it is positive to note that the decision on accreditation in Songdo looks into the possibility of using the GCF Readiness Support programme to help national implementing entities and intermediaries to meet the Fund’s requirements. This will influence whether indirect or direct modalities are favoured by the Fund, especially during the initial period when, otherwise, established institutions will have a stronger position.

However, the decision also indicates that institutions already accredited via other funds may benefit from a fast-track process – this will benefit institutions that already have systems in place, including those obtaining funds from the Adaptation Fund, but it will also benefit International Financial Institutions over domestic institutions.

The GCF is ready for take-off, but the next critical stages will determine where it will land. CDKN continues to support this group of CSOs, both at the level of influencing the GCF design process but also at the national level in Benin, Ghana, Indonesia and Togo, where national decision-making structures are being discussed and put in place to prepare them to receive future GCF funds.

Sometimes CDKN invites opinion pieces by commentators around the world. These do not necessarily reflect the views of CDKN or its alliance partners.

Image: aircraft courtesy Tim RT,

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