Promoting adaptation in the GCF: key first steps to take in 2017
In an article from March 2016 I outlined key next steps for the Green Climate Fund post-Paris to promote climate resilience for the poorest and most vulnerable communities. Now, one year later, as the Green Climate Fund Board meets for its 16th meeting at the seat of the Fund in Songdo, Korea, it is time to assess some of the progress achieved and barriers remaining.
More gender-responsive projects to be funded, but the money isn’t flowing (yet)
The current project pipeline comprises ca. 50 projects expected to request over USD 3 billion from the Green Climate Fund’s resources. According to the information provided by the project proponents, the adaptation/climate resilience related proposals would see 174 million people that are projected to benefit from increased resilience. CARE’s Adaptation Good Practice checklist highlights key elements for good adaptation projects, based on CARE’s experience.
At its 16th meeting, in early April, the Board will consider 9 project proposals with a total request of USD 855 million and total costs (beyond GCF contributions) of almost USD 3 billion. Four of these are specifically about adaptation, while one (Ethiopia) is said to address both mitigation and adaptation. The biggest requests in this area come from Tanzania (USD 109 million) and Ethiopia (almost USD 100 million). The analysis by the GCF’s Independent Technical Advisory Panel, which is publicly available, comes to varying conclusions regarding these proposals and proposes to approve some, while it is more critical about others. Drawing on this and further analysis from the Secretariat, GCF Board members will have to ensure that the projects strike the right balance between addressing pressing development needs of particularly vulnerable people and communities while including interventions to adapt to current and future climate changes. Fortunately, gender equality plays an increasing role across these projects, and the public disclosure of the project-related gender assessments and action plans helps with the understanding of approaches taken.
However, the slow pace of getting the approved programmes up and running is concerning. From the currently 35 approved projects with allocated funding of USD 1.5 billion, only one has met all conditions needed prior to the release of funds by the GCF, resulting in only 5.5 million spent so far, according to information provided by the GCF Secretariat. Even projects which were approved in late 2015, like a UNDP-led early-warning system expansion project in Malawi, have still not progressed. For quite some time, the accredited entities overseeing project implementation faced difficulties in agreeing on framework agreements for accreditation with the GCF. In addition, many projects were approved with specific conditions to ensure key substantive requirements are met. But, due to these various reason, substantial pressure has surmounted: work on the ground needs to start and to the GCF must deliver for the people affected by climate change. It is vital that the GCF Board and the agencies involved find ways to accelerate this process.
Enhanced direct access
Last year, the GCF Board also decided on activities for Enhancing Direct Access (EDA) with the aim of improving country ownership of projects and programmes by devolving decision making at the country level, thereby allowing greater involvement and input from impacted stakeholders. This approach could increase opportunities for local communities to directly put forward proposals at the country level. A pilot programme was initiated with an initial allocation of USD 200 million last summer. The GCF Secretariat reports that so far 13 concept notes were submitted under this pilot, with one proposal from Namibia approved in October. However, no further approval is up for discussion at this board meeting. Interestingly, the water and food security related programme proposed by Tanzania through UNDP – though not direct access but international access – reflects elements of enhanced access by giving regional-level institutions in the project region the mandate to receive activity proposals from local communities. This would allow these communities, within the framework of the GCF objectives, to identify which measures would best suit their adaptation needs.
Getting a monitoring system in place which builds on the participation of the communities
A year ago the Board considered first steps to install the necessary monitoring and evaluation system to ensure the projects’ progress towards their goals can be tracked and the GCF as a whole benefit from the learning. The GCF’s initial accountability framework for the accredited entities also refers to the need to apply participatory monitoring approaches and encourages countries to undertake annual participatory reviews of the GCF portfolio. This element may be reinforced through Guidelines for Enhanced Country Ownership and Country Drivenness which the Board will consider at the 16th meeting. Unfortunately, decisions on the Fund’s Environmental and Social Management System, for which organisations were able to submit their views by February, are delayed and will have to be taken up at one of the next meetings. Getting this framework in place early-on, and not just when key funded programmes are advanced in their implementation, is essential to ensure the environmental and social integrity of the activities. Moreover, further guidelines for setting good practice standards for participatory monitoring approaches throughout the project implementation are not yet provided by the GCF Secretariat. Decisions that the GCF Board might take to further set up the Fund’s Independent Redress Mechanism and the Independent Evaluation Unit could positively contribute to the overall monitoring approach.
Overall, the first GCF Board meeting in 2017 is another critical step to accelerate programme implementation and to progress the design of the GCF towards delivering for the most vulnerable.