GCF Board, world’s multibillion dollar climate fund meets in Samoa under shadow of ineffectiveness
It has been called the largest climate finance meeting ever held in the Pacific.
It’s a plus for Samoa and the region, but the fund, in its first year performance has been criticized for being too slow, with calls from some quarters to change its current operational modality of “micro-scrutinising” paperwork to death – to a system of pay-poor-countries US$50million to US$100million now to action their priority needs; and evaluate-later based on performance and results.
The 24-member Board of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), of which Samoa is a board member representing Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are meeting in Apia until tomorrow (15 December).
Established in 2010 by the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Fund’s mandate is to generate a “paradigm shift” in green energy and climate resilience investments.
It currently has US$10billion in its coffers. And under the Paris Agreement, developed countries have committed to a roadmap that will feed the GCF US$100billion annually from 2020 to help developing countries meet their Paris Agreement commitments.
GCF CRITICISM: TOO SLOW AND SHOULD CHANGE TO ‘PAY-NOW EVALUATE-LATER’ SYSTEM
But the GCF with a policy mandate of 50/50 fund allocation to mitigation, and adaptation activities, with 50 per cent of the adaptation allocation ring-fenced for the poorest and most vulnerable countries; has proven to be far too slow.
Of the US$10billion already received, it has approved just over US$1billion to 27 projects with only a tiny amount of that funding disbursed well short of its 2016 aspirational funding target of US$2.5billion. Tuvalu is one of only two Pacific countries amongst the 27 projects approved thus far.
It is therefore no surprise the GCF has come under attack as a fund mired in a “treadmill of paperwork” resulting in very little money flowing from GCF to the poorest countries in desperate need of the assistance.
According to one expert, the GCF board has taken the “laudable policy decision to allocate half of that amount to finance adaptation activities in the poorest and most vulnerable countries,” said Saleemul Huq, Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development at the University of Bangladesh, and a man who has been to all COPs, the annual governing meetings of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) starting in 1995.
“However, if the proof of the pudding is in the eating, then the poor and vulnerable countries are not eating any pudding at all.
“Some adaptation projects which were approved at the first GCF Board meeting over a year ago have not seen a cent delivered due to additional paperwork being required by the GCF.”
He emphasized that the model of “micro-scrutiny” of paperwork used by the GCF is ineffective and inappropriate and needs to change when one recognizes that “adaptation to climate change is a new activity for which there is no real pre-existing ‘expertise’ available.
“…the reliance by the GCF on so-called ‘adaptation experts’ to micro-scrutinise project proposals on paper and ask for unending amendments is time-consuming and in my view a waste of money both for those submitting proposals as well as for GCF paying these so-called experts’ fees.”
He suggests allocating an initial round of funding in the order of US$50 to US$100million per vulnerable country (who number less than a hundred) “either through their National Designated Authority (NDA) or their National Implementing Entities (NIEs) or even the Multilateral Implementing Entities (MIEs) to spend according to set guidelines … immediately on their own priority projects.”
He says that by moving the GCF’s current modality of “micro-scrutinising” paperwork to death to a pay-now evaluate-later system on the basis of performance and results, that poor and vulnerable countries would be better served by getting the financing to them quickly.
He is also critical of the need for so-called experts being called in to evaluate adaptation proposals.
“Having worked for decades on adaptation in vulnerable communities and countries I do not feel that there indeed exists the ‘expertise’ to effectively evaluate adaptation project proposals.
Adaptation to climate change he argues is a new activity for which there is no real pre-existing ‘expertise’ available. Hence the entire process, at least for the first decade, will be a learning-by-doing process where expertise will be developed by practitioners and others over time.
“Hence the so-called experts are themselves a major bottleneck with little value addition.”
He also pointed out that transparency and accountability would come through, “scrutiny from the GCF … on a results-based system where the funding recipients would have to demonstrate effective use of the first round of funds they received before being eligible for the second tranche of funding.”
REASONS BEHIND BRINGING THE GCF TO SAMOA
One of the principal reasons for Samoa bringing the meeting to Apia is one of expectation and the unexpected.
An expectation that the board members with little knowledge and exposure to vulnerable small island situations will gain those much-needed first hand experience of the region’s unique and diverse climate financing needs.
That they will see first-hand the realities that the Pacific region and island communities are already facing on a daily basis. And that they will remember, and include Pacific opportunities into agenda and discussions that come across their table from global investors and climate financing initiatives.
And the reality of the unexpected, the uncertainty of life in the region as a result of climate change was poignantly addressed by Samoa’s Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Naioti Malielegaoi’s final remarks on the opening day.
“This time of the year the region usually prepares for the unexpectedness of nature, but we are also conscious that seasons no longer retain their essential rhythm. We can only rely on being prepared, remaining prepared, and mitigating the risks in the best ways we can, and afford.”
Preparedness, according to Tuilaepa comes through the finances promised through the GCF where the region is keen to show its mettle in putting the worldly promises by rich nations so often heard at the UN General Assembly via the Paris Agreement or Agenda 2030’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
WHERE GCF SHOULD FOCUS FOR SMALL ISLAND COUNTRIES
“We are keen to demonstrate ambition and use the GCF to contribute to the global climate change efforts, but for this we need very targeted assistance and procedures,” according to Samoa’s Permanent Representative to the UN, and GCF board member, HE Aliioaiga Feturi Elisaia.
“Therefore, one of the main outcomes of the Samoa meeting has to be the operationalization of a key provision of the GCF Governing Instrument – the simplified approval process for micro and small-scale activities, as well as the streamlining of the Fund’s initial proposal approval process.
“For us simplified procedures are not only about getting faster access to available resources, but on a broader level about building up and retaining the capacity in our regions to plan and implement climate change activities. We look to our partners to support us in this regard.”
GCF ASPIRATIONS FOR THE APIA MEETING?
The Apia meeting should continue making progress on policies on the potential of decarbonisation within the investment portfolios of GCF partner institutions.
It is very important that the GCF sends a strong and consistent signal to our private sector partners of what is the level of environmental integrity expected from them, if they are to access GCF funds in the future.
The Samoa GCF Board meeting will mark the close of an extremely important and successful year for climate action that saw the unprecedented entry into force of the Paris Agreement within less than a year after its adoption on December 12th in Paris in 2015.
Efforts by the GCF towards streamlining access to climate finance and reducing financing in carbon-intensive activities will be an important cornerstone for ambition and international partnerships for climate action and sustainable development in a time when it is our responsibility to maintain and strengthen multilateralism and international cooperation.
GCF’s SAMOA MEETING
For the Samoa meeting concluding tomorrow, the Board will focus on a number of priorities that include vetting applications for accredited entity status, ways to enable easier and faster access to resources for certain activities, and the budget and Work Plan for 2017. However, its principal focus will be on thorough and meaningful consideration of nine funding proposals that have finally made it through the difficult and cumbersome process.
Three of the nine proposals, totaling US$103million, are from the Pacific.
- US$23million project to deliver climate information services for resilience development in Vanuatu;
- US$58million for integrated flood management in Samoa’s Vaisigano catchment area; and
- an initial US$22million for the Pacific Renewable Energy Investment Programme involving seven Pacific nations.