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UN climate fund releases $183m to tackle global warming

The Guardian,19 Nov 2015 - Green Climate Fund announces eight projects to be funded in Asia, Africa and Latin America ahead of Paris summit.
UN climate fund releases $183m to tackle global warming

A villager washes a cooking pot in the sea around Huraa island, Maldives. The Green Climate Fund is allocating $23.6m to fight water shortages in the low lying atolls. Photograph: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP

The head of the UN’s climate fund has hailed a “paradigm shift” as poor countries began receiving money to help them tackle global warming, weeks before climate talks take place in Paris.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is intended to be the major conduit for funding to flow from wealthy economies built on fossil fuels to those that will suffer most from climate change they did not cause.

On Friday at its board meeting in Zambia, the fund released $183m (£122m) for eight projects in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The executive director, Hela Cheikhrouhou, said the symbolic significance of getting the fund up and running before the Paris talks outweighed the relatively tiny amount released. “It is a very important step forward in the global effort to fight climate change,” she said.

Many developing countries have indicated that their commitments to cut emissions are conditional on support from wealthy nations. The developed world has agreed that poor countries should receive $100bn a year by 2020, but have so far pledged just $10.2bn to the GCF.

Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, said he was disappointed that when the climate finance floodgates had finally been thrown open, just a trickle had emerged. “At this pace it will take them years to disburse the funds they already have with them, let alone $100bn a year in five years from now,” he said.

Cheikhrouhou said assessing projects took time and she was hopeful that significantly more funding would be released at the next board meeting in March.

The successful projects had been chosen because they had the potential to be “truly transformational”, said the former investment banker. The awards include $23.6m to fight water shortages in the low-lying atolls of the Maldives and $217m of green bonds (not included in the $183m total) for energy efficiency projects in Latin America.

Funding to cut energy use lags far behind clean energy investment, but Cheikhrouhou said the bonds could kick start an energy efficiency boom in Latin America. “That’s what we mean by paradigm shift. It’s something that has a good chance to change the picture of how we invest on a day-to-day basis,” she said.

A key challenge confronting the fund is the refusal of the US Congress to release any of the $3bn promised last year by the Obama administration. But Cheikhrouhou said the US delegate to the GCF had said talks with congressional Republicans, whose colleagues have attacked the GCF as a “slush fund”, were progressing and some money could be released when the budget is finalised in December.

The meeting also elected new co-chairs from South Africa and Australia. It is the second time the Australian delegate, Ewen McDonald, will co-chair the board, despite the former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott previously deriding the fund.

“This is a continuation of a good engagement by the Australian administration,” said Cheikhrouhou, who would not comment on the country’s widely maligned climate policies.

A statement from the office of the Australian foreign minister, Julie Bishop, said: “Australia is seen as a pragmatic, constructive and results-focused member of the Green Climate Fund.”


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