The start of something big?

Children in the Nepali village show me their community tree-planting scheme

If the US$100 billion a year, or more, that has been promised from 2020 by richer countries for helping developing countries to both adapt to the negative impacts of climate change, and to develop in a low-carbon way, is channelled largely through the newly established Green Climate Fund (GCF), then the GCF could be the largest fund in the world. If the fund spends this money well, it could play a big role in helping to solve the largest problem the world faces.

Two years ago, I visited communities where one of Tearfund’s partner organisations, International Nepal Fellowship works. The villages, in south west Nepal, consisted of small huts with straw roofs, next to cultivated fields and a community protected forest. The women there told me about the annual floods which they face that have recently got worse; the size of their grain which is getting smaller; the timings for planting their crops which are more unpredictable, and their water resources which are increasingly dried up. Scientists link these changes partly to climate change: the floods, for instance, have been made worse by long-term changes in glacier melt in the Himalayas, which scientists have connected with global warming. People living in poverty such as those women in Nepal, now face a much more difficult and uncertain future – the Green Climate Fund has been set up to help.

The first meeting of the Green Climate Fund Board met in Geneva last week and started out with talk that something big could be achieved through this fund – Board members said this fund should be ‘different’. There is a sense it will be more democratic and transparent than other climate funds – that it will make efforts to be led by priorities set by the developing countries that it serves. I feel hopeful that money from this fund might actually reach communities such as the one I visited in Nepal. I attended this meeting to work with other members of civil society to use our joint lobbying efforts, to try to make sure that happens.

I was sitting watching procedures in an overflow room, because only two civil society observers were allowed to watch from inside the Board room. In addition those civil society representatives were not allowed to share any opinion on the proceedings, apart from once. Many of us from a range of civil society organisations met daily to share notes and to formulate combined arguments that we lobbied on in the corridors. Arrangements for us all to engage with the official Board meeting deliberations need to improve – this fund is for people in developing countries – we need to be allowed into meetings to keep the Board members on track: I worried, listening to some of the snappy talk of business plans and use of the private sector to both create funds and deliver outcomes, that Board members may not have the poorest and most vulnerable communities always in their minds.

The issues discussed by the Board last week were mostly administrative – who can go in what meeting, who has voting rights, how will they choose the host country, how will they plan how to write a plan and even, albeit briefly, how they will choose a new logo.

Me, in Geneva last week, on my way to the Swiss government reception

Despite this necessary focus on process, governments seemed to realise the potential size and therefore importance of this fund. The Swiss government did, for instance. Geneva is one of the six cities bidding to become a host for the GCF secretariat who will manage the day to day running of the fund. The Swiss fed all of us the most delicious lunches, and showed off the incredible views from the World Meteorological Organisation’s offices which they propose would house the fund – including sight of the fountain in Lake Geneva which turned green just for us. They know this fund will create a lot of jobs and income if they win their bid to host it, as do the governments of the other countries bidding: Germany, Mexico, Republic of Korea, Poland and Namibia.

Talk at the start of the first meeting of the Green Climate Fund Board meeting was about achieving something great : a generational achievement ; and also about getting on with the work in hand. The co-chairs emphasised that members of the board needed a working spirit – ‘we are no longer negotiators’ one of them said. The co-chairs were elected during the first session without dispute and appeared to work together very well, showing a good ability to guide discussions and propose solutions on the occasions where Board members did not straight away come to an agreement. The GCF Board meeting finished on Saturday with everyone a bit jaded because they had had to talk a lot about administrative processes, but nevertheless there were more inspiring words about how the 12 + 12 (developing and developed country) Board members had now become 24.

As for me, I remain hopeful. The members of the new Board all seemed fixed on working speedily towards having a fully functioning fund: but how it functions is just as important as getting it functioning. If the money is spent well, this fund could make a big difference.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s