After months of delay, the new UN Green Climate Fund (GCF) had its first board meeting between 23-25 August.
The board is important, as it will play a key role in defining the future direction of the fund and determining whether the GCF will provide genuine and much needed climate finance to poor countries or be yet another clone of the hated World Bank and its Climate Investment Funds (CIFs) which have foisted debt on some of the world’s poorest countries.
Early indications are that the GCF may not be much better than the CIFs. Thanks to the influence of the UK and its allies, a large portion of the $100 billion (£63 billion) that rich countries have promised (but so far failed to deliver) to the fund may go directly to multinational corporations through a dubious ‘private sector facility’. This has led campaigners to call the GCF a ‘greedy corporate fund’.
The main decision taken by this meeting of the board was to elect Australia and South Africa as the co-chairs. This is not an encouraging sign as these countries don’t have a brilliant record on climate. Australia has refused to renew its commitments under the Kyoto protocol, which remains the only legally binding treaty on emissions reduction, while South Africa is in the process of building a huge coal power plant with World Bank backing in the face of strong local opposition.
There are also worrying signs that civil society’s voice may be drowned out by corporate lobbyists. While there will be two civil society ‘active observers’ on the board (one from the north and one from the south) the private sector will also get two representatives. Indigenous peoples won’t be represented at all, despite calls from indigenous peoples’ organizations for them to have a representative at board meetings. This is actually a step backwards from the CIFs. For example, the Pilot Project for Climate Resilience (PPCR) has four active observers from civil society and two representatives of indigenous peoples present at committee meetings.
The next board meeting to be held in South Korea between 18-20 October is expected to make more important decisions. What is certain is that the location of the GCF will be finalized, with Germany, Namibia, Switzerland, Mexico, Poland and South Korea all in the running to host the fund. The size of the private sector facility is still not decided and it is yet to be seen whether campaigners’ call for a ‘no objection’ policy, which means that citizens in developing countries will have to consent to private sector projects for them to proceed, will be heeded.