Smart Spending?
Green Climate Fund Failing at its Only Two Tasks

The lone success of the disastrous 2009 Copenhagen climate summit is looking like a mess, seven years later. The Green Climate Fund was envisioned as a mechanism to raise $100 billion annually to invest in green projects around the world, especially in developing countries. It was a crucial bit of leverage to convince the developing world to provisionally sign on to last December’s climate deal in Paris, but thus far it has only managed to raise a little more than $10 billion—a far cry from that lofty goal that, again, was set up as an annual target. But that’s not the GCF’s only issue, as the outgoing executive director of the fund recently warned that those holding the pursestrings lack the requisite focus to distribute the money they’ve managed to raise. Reuters reports:

Héla Cheikhrouhou, who was appointed as Tunisia’s minister for energy, mining and renewable in its new government on Friday, urged the $10.3-billion fund to provide clearer guidelines on what it is seeking to finance in areas such as water, urban development, energy and transport.

“Now our rules are very broad… the net that exists is very wide, so anything goes,” Cheikhrouhou told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview from Tunis. “We can’t continue like that; we need to invest the money wisely to meet the mandate of the fund.”

Just before the Paris climate summit, the GCF expedited the review process of a number of projects in which it was considering investing, green lighting $168 million meant for eight different projects. It was a fairly transparent effort by the organization to try and have something to show for itself at the summit, which kicked off just weeks after this tranche of funds. And no wonder—these were the first eight projects funded by the GCF. Since then, the fund has invested another $256 million, and says it hopes to invest a total of $2.5 billion this year. You’ll excuse us if we choose not to hold our breath waiting for that goal to be met.

We heard rumblings of problems within the GCF back in March, when the fund’s board convened and agreed to up the “overstretched” organization’s employee count from 56 to 140 by the end of next year. Scaling up is a start, but the fund’s problems won’t be solved with a few new hires. There’s a deeper tension underlying the unsatisfactory pace at which it’s investing in projects: the developed world is (rightly) concerned that the cash it’s ponying up for this fund might be wasted on bogus projects. There’s a real need to verify and monitor the eco-credentials of the recipients of all of this money, and so far it doesn’t appear as if the GCF is up to that task.

The Green Climate Fund is failing at its only two purposes: raising money, and spending it on green projects.

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