Too Little Too Late?
UN Rushes Climate Fund Projects Ahead of Paris Summit

Desperate to score a rare win for the international climate treaty process less than four weeks before the big summit in Paris, the UN’s Green Climate Fund (GCF) green-lit its first eight projects today, appropriating $168 million of the $10.2 billion so far amassed. In doing so, the UN hopes to demonstrate the developed world’s commitment to financially supporting poorer countries as those countries mitigate and adapt to climate change.

But on closer examination there’s still plenty to be concerned about. For one, the numbers involved are laughably low for a process that, when it was set up in Copenhagen in 2009, was meant to dole out $100 billion annually. The fact that it took six years to spend just 1.6 percent of that annual budget will be a major point of contention in Paris, as will the fact that the GCF remains, well, un-funded. With just $10.2 billion in the coffers so far, it’s clear that rich countries haven’t been paying up, and the developing world has taken notice.

But that’s not the only issue with this baby step. As Reuters reports, the process of approving these projects has been criticized as being rushed through in order to build momentum for the rapidly approaching conference in France:

Some civil society groups that participated in the GCF approval process said it was rushed ahead of the Paris summit and lacked transparency. Cheikhrouhou disagreed and said the GCF provided expansive documentation “well in time.”

The eight-project shortlist had been narrowed down from 37 applications and published on the GCF website on Oct. 15. The GCF board’s approval meeting in Zambia started Nov. 2.

This left little time for board members, including non-government organisations, to review the projects, said Liane Schalatek, associate director of the Heinrich Boell Foundation North America.

“You have to be extremely careful that you are not setting bad precedents with the first couple of projects that you are looking at,” she said.

It says something about international policy efforts that it took six years to create a shortlist of developing world green projects worth investing in, and the fact that these projects were rubber stamped without leaving more time for a proper review of their merit fairly reeks of desperation. This sets a precedent that will terrify the developed world, which doesn’t want to write blank checks to projects they have no way of verifying or monitoring.

We know exactly why this was rushed through. As South African climate delegate and spokesperson for the G-77+ China Nozipho Joyce Mxakato-Diseko recently put it, “whether Paris succeeds or not will be dependent on what we have as part of the core agreement on finance.” The UN wants these first eight projects to be seen as a sign of good faith, but they only expose how meager the GCF’s efforts have been thus far, and how little regard the organization holds for careful oversight of how that money is being spent.

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