With the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change kicking off 11 days of meetings in Bonn today, the UN’s Global Climate Fund is still far from the US$100 billion developed countries were to deliver by 2020 to help the global south address climate impacts.
“The idea behind the fund is simple: The world’s rich nations, led by the U.S. and Europe, are responsible for most of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change, but the burdens of a warming planet fall most heavily on poor countries,” writes sustainability reporter Marc Gunther on Vox. “Consequently, the fund takes from the rich and gives to the poor—like Robin Hood, but with the legal and political backing of the UN.”
The GCF is set up to address “the twin threats of climate change and poverty,” said its founding director, Tunisian economist Héla Cheikhrouhou, with projects in the areas of clean energy, low-carbon cities, low-emission agriculture, forestry, and climate adaptation. “What is by no means clear is whether the GCF can achieve those goals,” Gunther notes, “or even how the fund, with its unwieldy governance structure, will answer a series of fundamental questions about how it intends to do business.”
Diplomats and decision-makers have been debating whether the GCF should deal in grants, loans or equity investments, whether governments, businesses, or non-profits should be eligible for funding, and whether the project portfolio should include carbon capture and storage attached to coal plants. While “corporate observers say the fund must do more to welcome private sector partners,” climate hawks “say the fund needs to do more to devolve power to those it is designed to help,” he notes. “They worry that local communities aren’t being sufficiently involved in decision-making, and they are wary of big companies that want to profit from the fund.”
Meanwhile, pledges to the GCF from 42 countries total only US$10.3 billion through 2018, and the Fund has only approved eight projects worth $168 million.