Countries most in need of Global Climate Fund money are struggling to get it

A local fishing boat, pictured in the waters off Atauro Island, Timor-Leste. (UN Photo/Martine Perret)

When actor Leonardo DiCaprio accepted his first Oscar at the Academy Awards, his speech called on the world to take action on climate change.

“Climate change is real. It is happening right now. It’s the most urgent threat facing our entire species and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating,” he said. “We need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters, but who speak for all of humanity, for the indigenous people of the world, for the billions and billions of underprivileged people out there who would be most affected by this. For our children’s children, and for those people out there whose voices have been drowned out by the politics of greed.”

Just a few months earlier, leaders of the world met in Paris and arrived at an agreement to limit global warming. Heads of various countries and activists made bold statements, much like DiCaprio’s, urging the world to act immediately in order to prevent a global catastrophe.

Central to achieving that goal is supporting the world’s poorest countries. The Green Climate Fund aims approve $2.5 billion in funding for 2016, during its board meeting this week. With only $168 million lined up in investments and countries saying the funding process is too burdensome, the Fund is off to a rough start.

Before countries can even access the money, they must go through an accreditation partner, like a development bank, NGO or regional institution, to get the money. Proposed plans by those partners are evaluated by the Green Climate Fund on a range of areas from program viability to track record of the partner and country.

Some say this kind of red tape makes it hard to navigate the process to get the money. The president of Kiribati has been vocal about the challenges. It is a particularly important issue given that rising oceans are on course to overtake the Pacific island nation.

President Anote Tong has campaigned for the world to urgently slow global warming. Kiribati is the kind of country where the Green Climate Fund can have immense impact – if it can get the money.

“It’s a paradox. We need [funding]the most but we don’t have the capacity to get it because we’re not accredited,” said Tong at an event at the London School of Economics.

One of the major selling points about the Fund when it garnered more than $10 billion in pledges was the fact that programs would be led by local governments and communities. Countries themselves and their citizens could do the things that they determined were best suited to help adapt to climate change and manage carbon emissions.

At the core, the idea is to achieve the type of bottom-up development that is often lauded in development circles. The current batch of initiatives do not quite start at the bottom. If countries continue to struggle to gain the necessary accreditation, the vision set by the Fund will not be realized.

And that is even assuming all the money is available. As the largest donor country, the United States is crucial to meeting the Fund’s goal of raising $100 billion a year from public and private sources by 2020.

The White House asked for $715 million in its budget proposal for next year, it would be part of the $3 billion pledged by President Barack Obama in November 2014. But he faces a pledge of opposition from 37 Senators and another from 110 members of the House of Representatives who said they would torpedo any attempt to use taxpayer money for the Fund.

Finally, there is pressure on the Fund board to reconsider working with the banks HSBC and Credit Agricole. Climate change activists say that the $9.5 billion invested by Credit Agricole and $7 billion by HSBC in coal between 2009 and 2014 is evidence that the banks are not prioritizing the reduction of carbon emissions.

The board is considering adding staff, among all the other issues it faces in trying to achieve its $2.5 billion spending goal for this year. But a more basic question remains, will the Global Climate Fund falter before it really gets off the ground?


About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]