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Climate change adaptation post-Paris: next steps for the Green Climate Fund

by Sven Harmeling, CARE | CARE International
Wednesday, 9 March 2016 15:38 GMT

Malawian subsistence farmer Rozaria Hamiton plants sweet potatoes near the capital Lilongwe, Feb. 1, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The fund must now accelerate progress to build community resilience to climate impacts at broader scale

The Green Climate Fund is expected to become a key channel for funding adaptation efforts in vulnerable developing countries. The GCF pursues valuable adaptation objectives, namely to increase resilience and enhance the livelihoods of the most vulnerable people, communities and regions in the world, including in areas such as health, well-being and food and water security. It can make a real difference to the lives of millions of people. Building on some key adaptation features of the GCF, it must now accelerate progress to build community resilience to climate impacts at broader scale.

Paris Agreement – the new guide for the GCF’s strategic plan

With the Paris Agreement, the GCF now has a new reference guide to align and contribute to, including the strengthened temperature limit of keeping global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius and pursuing efforts to limit to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Furthermore, it also highlighted the goals of enhancing adaptive capacity and fostering climate resilience, and making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.

These goals are now incorporated in the draft strategic plan for the GCF which will be one of the main discussion points at the GCF’s 12th Board meeting taking place this week in Songdo, Korea. The GCF may also play a stronger role in the future in funding the development of National Adaptation Plans as part of readiness activities, as mandated by COP21.

Big funding decisions, but no good proposals?

The GCF Board set the goal of taking funding decisions of $2.5 billion this year (for mitigation and adaptation). Finding the “right” investments seems to be a challenge at the moment. Some weeks ago, the GCF decided that it would not consider funding decisions at its 12th meeting, due to the lack of ripe project proposals which sufficiently meet the paradigm shift requirements set out by the Board.

What are the reasons for this? A report prepared by the GCF Secretariat at least provides an understanding of the current project pipeline, and there seems to be a good number of adaptation projects, which the Secretariat estimates to have a greater than 50 percent probability of getting approval in 2016. These, for example, aim to strengthen agricultural resilience in Latin America, disaster risk management in Asia and Africa, or increase adaptive capacity in small islands states of the Pacific.

These projects request GCF support of between $18 million and $42 million each, which is a significant scale. Unfortunately, no more details on the project concepts are available as the GCF has yet adopted a fully transparent approach, where also concept notes would be made publicly available, not only the final programmes presented for approval.

The delay in agreement on a strong and ambitious information disclosure policy is, therefore, becoming a concerning impediment to the GCF reaching its objective of a fully transparent institution. Hopefully, it will pursue truly community-driven approaches. However, the development of the project pipelines has been set out as a key priority in the draft strategic plan. Additional guidance seems to be required to initiate bigger programmatic approaches.

Putting key adaptation principles into practice

This lack of transparency also makes it difficult to judge whether these proposals perform strongly on key adaptation good practice principles. The Paris Agreement not only strengthened the role of key guiding principles of good adaptation, such as gender-responsive, participatory and taking into account indigenous knowledge through their inclusion in Article 7.5. Governments also called on the GCF Board to take into account such principles in their programme priorities. This has not yet been the case sufficiently. The GCF co-chairs have proposed to request the Secretariat of the GCF to prepare ideas to systematically take these into account in the future.

Harnessing the benefits of enhanced direct access

So far, enhanced direct access has been underused, although it has potential for generating transformative paradigm shift projects that reach scale, but at the same time are driven by the needs and perspectives of the most vulnerable people and communities. This could provide a framework for identifying funding proposals bottom-up and build domestic capacities. At the last meeting, the Board decided to kick off a pilot programme, but it is unclear whether this important issue will receive significant attention. The secretariat’s activity report does not even mention the pilot programme, it does not appear on the 12th meeting agenda and it is also not reflected in the strategic plan. The Board’s 2016 work plan foresees approval of programmes for the meeting in October.

Moving towards participatory monitoring

A positive development is that the GCF seems to be taking its mandate to encourage participatory monitoring seriously, which in CARE’s experience is a key approach to designing and implementing projects that build on the knowledge and capacities of vulnerable communities. At its 11th meeting the Board approved the initial monitoring and accountability framework for the accredited entities.

At this week's meeting, government representatives will also consider further elements for performance management and the evaluation of programmes, and preparatory documents stress the need for participatory approaches. This must now be put into practice, and supplemented by proven and effective tools of participatory monitoring, such as community scorecards or participatory scenario planning. Moreover, it is important to ensure that this is reflected in the design of programme proposals, and in the respective templates, which is not yet the case.

Overall, the GCF Board needs to take further steps to making the fund deliver to those people and communities most affected by climate change impacts at its 12th meeting.

Sven Harmeling is climate change advocacy coordinator with CARE International.