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OPINION: The paradigm shift we want the Green Climate Fund to provide

On the eve of the ninth meeting of the Green Climate Fund Board in Songdo, Korea, CDKN asks civil society advocates from Indonesia and Ghana how the Fund can support the most promising initiatives in climate compatible development in their countries. The Board meeting will take place from 24-26 March, 2015 – more details here.

The paradigm shift we want: a view from Indonesia

Titi Soentoro, a policy advisor at Aksi! for gender, social and ecological justice in Indonesia, outlines how the Green Climate Fund can embrace a ‘paradigm shift’ in sustainable development.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) has garnered nearly US$ 10.4 billion, pledged by 32 countries in its initial resource mobilisation phase. The Fund celebrated this achievement as a beginning to “…take practical and proportionate steps to take action on climate change while safeguarding economic growth…” and helping ‘… developing countries to also ensure sustainability of their economic growth path” (GCF press release, December 2014) . Those statements reflect an expectation from both developed and developing countries that the GCF, as a financial mechanism under the UNFCCC, will contribute to a paradigm shift towards low-emission and climate-resilient development pathways in developing countries.

Many civil society groups from developing countries supported the creation of a fund under the UNFCCC as an alternative to climate finance through international financial institutions (IFIs), like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, which currently manage most multilateral climate funds. Experiences shows that IFIs add to the debt burden of developing countries and cause negative social and environmental impacts for communities in the areas where they operate. A paradigm shift in the direction of sustainable development is expected by social movements in developing countries: this development should be driven by the needs of the people, be based less on the extraction of natural resources, contribute to a just trade regime, and involve more government oversight particularly in the provision of basic essential services like water, electricity, health and education, and food sovereignty.

It’s hard to engage in GCF processes. In Indonesia, Aksi! has engaged with policy-makers who are designing the GCF decision-making structure. We have been consulted and there is openness to our ideas, but at the same time there is no clear avenue for participation by a wide range of stakeholders in decision-making yet. Weak guidance from the GCF does not help our case at the national level. Moreover, organisations working locally with farmers, women’s groups, communities on climate change solutions are not quite ready to submit proposals that meet GCF requirements. No support is provided to these organisations to help them prepare for successful submission. Without explicit support, both in-country and by guidance of the GCF Board, IFIs and the private sector will be best-placed to receive GCF funding.

What Indonesian communities want. The upcoming ninth GCF Board meeting will be convened this month in Songdo. This time the GCF – with those pledges of US$ 10.4 billion – will be scrutinised more closely by communities affected by climate change in developing countries. Will the GCF focus solely on a low-emission and climate-resilient development pathway without considering what people in developing countries affected by climate change expect from sustainable development? Will this fund really help people to face the climate change impacts on their lives and livelihoods, or it is just another justification for business to exploit people’s conditions and hardships for their own profits?

Those questions should guide the GCF in its deliberation to provide support for developing countries. The GCF should deliberate: exclusion of dirty and harmful energy from its list of support including coal, geothermal and dams; country ownership as really people’s ownership and not solely the government’s; approval of affected communities for projects planned in their areas; engagement of civil societies in establishing gender-responsive GCF mechanisms and procedures at the national and local level; women’s meaningful participation in decision-making about projects affecting their livelihoods; local direct access of communities to the GCF; limited access of the international private sector to the fund; transparency and accountability of the fund and its utilisation at the national and local level. What’s more, people and the environment need to be protected by safeguard procedures that encompass advanced due diligence on human rights: this is needed in the face of REDD+ and geothermal  projects in Indonesia, and should be treated far more centrally than the IFC performance standards (which are used as temporary GCF safeguards).

People affected by climate change need support to overcome their problems in a way that empowers them and that builds on their knowledge and ideas. This requires a huge paradigm shift from the GCF compared to standard practice at IFIs. This paradigm shift has been promoted for years by civil society organisations in Indonesia and worldwide.

Countries must get ready for imminent GCF funding opportunities: a view from Ghana

Ken Kinney, Executive Director and Policy Expert, The Development Institute, Ghana, outlines some of the concerns from Ghanaian civil society for the forthcoming GCF funding rounds.

Communities vulnerable to climate change across the developing world have high expectations from international support to help them become more resilient to climate change impacts. Although the last two decades have been characterised by unfulfilled promises and commitments by developed countries, these communities are hopeful that the multilateral process under UNFCCC that gave birth to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) is the way to deliver fairness and justice for them.

The upcoming ninth GCF board meeting in Songdo, South Korea, is characterised by an ambitious agenda. The GCF board needs to ensure all steps are taken for the fund to start disbursing money by the end of this year, 2015. Most developing countries especially in Africa where climate change is expected to devastate the livelihoods of the poor and reverse development ironically do not seem to be fully ready to receive funds – especially from the GCF.

Ghana isn’t ‘climate finance ready’ yet. While the GCF board meeting will be geared towards readiness for the first round of approvals in 2015, this process is not in tandem with the internal processes of developing countries. Ghana like most African countries does not seem to be ready to grasp this opportunity. It does not yet have in place the critical structures for facilitating GCF funds to flow; Ghana’s national designated authority (NDA) or focal point is yet to be chosen. Another challenge is the selection of national implementing entities (NIEs): the opportunity exists to already select these and lead them through the GCF accreditation process, but Ghana is not there yet. Readiness and preparatory support could be obtained from the GCF, with the possibility of ensuring local NGOs or private sector companies benefit from support to stand a chance in their application to the GCF, but the formulation of a proposal to the GCF – again—is  slow.  Readiness support is a chance offered by the GCF to address exactly the capacity gap Ghana is struggling with.

The perception of civil society organisations, the private sector and vulnerable communities in Ghana is that the state lacks leadership. Ghana cannot continue to sit back: it needs to move beyond the support it receives from development partners and beyond development of policy frameworks and statements on climate change by politicians. The expectations raised with the establishment of the “Ghana Green Fund” are a case in point: it is still on the drawing table while many other countries are making more headway in setting up national climate funds. What is causing all this? It is not about availability of skills as there  are abundant skills in government institutions, but it is about institutional rivalry and rigidity which is delaying decisive action. This in effect holds vulnerable communities, specifically those who are hardly hit by extremes of climate change, hostage.

Ghanaian communities want the tools to adapt to climate change. What are the expectations of those communities in Ghana? They are seeking to strengthen their resilience and increase their control over their environment and productive resources. For example, many poor rural communities in Ghana could use better natural infrastructure along water bodies, by afforesting and restoring hill sides and more adequate land use planning. This would protect them from erosion during heavy storms (characteristic of climate change extremes) and significantly reduce siltation of rivers and dams.

The GCF could also be used in Ghana to fund the transfer of renewable energy technologies to harness wind and solar energy. This provides a more reliable energy to communities enabling them to transit from dependence on rain fed agriculture to irrigation by lifting water for irrigation, and to facilitate local processing of farm produce and storage of foods. Furthermore, the construction of small dams to store water during heavy storms, would reduce the impact of and dependence on the current unreliable weather patterns.

The GCF should use both national and local institutions. While the GCF Board needs to draw up the framework that ensures that the needs of the most vulnerable to climate change are met, there is a clear need to simultaneously work with countries like Ghana. Countries where the needs for climate finance are great, but the institutional frameworks are not ready. The worst mistake would be to circumvent national institutions by calling in multilateral institutions or the international private sector. Any sustainable climate change solution needs to work with local structures and partners and strengthen them. Given the legitimate expectations of communities described above, multi-stakeholder participation and getting local actors at the table is key in this process.

 Occasionally, CDKN invites guest bloggers to contribute their opinions. These do not necessarily represent the opinions of CDKN or its Alliance members.


Image: Indonesian coastal community, courtesy CIAT.


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