Green Climate Fund ‘a laughing stock’, say poor countries

By Megan Darby

Courtesy of Climate Home

It was hydropower dams in, community drought readiness out, amid rich-poor tensions at the UN’s flagship climate finance scheme

A funding bid to drought-proof Ethiopian communities was left in limbo after a meeting of the UN’s flagship climate finance initiative in early April.  Eight projects worth USD 755 million were approved by the Green Climate Fund (GCF) board, including the contentious refurbishment of a Soviet-era hydropower dam in Tajikistan and USD 265 million for renewable energy projects across the developing world.

But delegates could not reach consensus on a request for USD 100 million to support farmers and pastoralists in Ethiopia. The US, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden, Germany and Japan objected to the proposal, while African delegates fought to keep it open.

Tosi Mpanu Mpanu, a board member from Democratic Republic of Congo, warned the indecision was diminishing the fund’s credibility among recipient countries.  “They are saying the GCF board is a laughing stock, they are seeing people to go the extra mile and when we do it is still not good enough,” he said: “I really want to encourage people to join the ambition club and do some good work which is accepted by the board.”  After a board member from Germany objected to the phrase “laughing stock”, Mpanu Mpanu agreed to withdraw the comment.

Delegates agreed the board needed to clarify funding criteria at the next meeting in July, to avoid making policy decisions on the fly.

The bid, put forward by the Ethiopian government and UN Development Programme (UNDP), involved a suite of measures to prepare people, particularly women, for water scarcity. Global warming is expected to make rainfall more unpredictable in the already drought-prone region.

Critics questioned whether the five year programme was truly focused on adapting to climate change, as opposed to general development. Its defenders acknowledged some weaknesses but argued Ethiopia was being held to a tougher standard than other, also imperfect, proposals.  A source at the UNDP told Climate Home they would work with the Ethiopian government to revise the bid and bring it back to the table.

Observers at the board meeting complained that donor countries were displaying an ideological preference for large scale infrastructure projects, rather than ones that build resilience within communities. The fund was set up to bring about a “paradigm shift” in the global response to climate change, by supporting efforts in developing countries. It has raised USD 10 billion worth of donations to allocate (minus USD 2 billion from the US which Donald Trump has committed to axing).

The brief is to split funds 50/50 between low carbon development and adaptation to the impacts of climate change. At least half of the adaptation money is earmarked for the most vulnerable countries, a category that includes Ethiopia.

The April decisions take the total number of ongoing projects to 43, with USD 2.2 billion of GCF funds mobilising USD 5.2 billion from other sources.

Among the approvals were three large hydropower schemes, despite civil society objections. The most controversial involved upgrading Qairokkum dam in Tajikistan. “Rehabilitating ageing infrastructure may make economic sense, but it is no way transformational as GCF criteria requires,” wrote Joshua Klemm of International Rivers and Florencia Ortúzar of Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense.

Other projects targeted solar-powered irrigation in tribal areas of India, farming in Morocco and renewable energy in Egypt.

“The GCF has a busy agenda for 2017 as it matures as an organisation,” said board co-chair Ewen McDonald from Australia. “We made good progress in 2016 and now need to show we can implement the funding we have committed by strengthening our core operations and improving the quality of the project pipeline which, together, will see us deliver real and lasting outcomes.”

This article is published courtesy of Climate Home: