The UN’s Green Climate Fund (GCF) was the one “success” to emerge from the disastrous 2009 Copenhagen climate summit, and as envisioned it would raise funds from wealthy countries to spend on projects that would help poorer countries mitigate and adapt to climate change. The GCF is the singular carrot that helped get the developing world on board with the non-binding deal agreed upon in Paris this past December, but thus far it has failed completely to follow through on its only two tasks: raising money, and then spending it.
The GCF was expected to bring in $100 billion annually, but thus far has only accrued a little over $10 billion. That, however, isn’t the failure that’s making the news today. That’s because the fund is finding it surprisingly difficult to spend the money it’s managed to raise. As Reuters reports, the GCF is going to miss this year’s spending goal by more than $1 billion:
The Green Climate Fund (GCF) board, meeting at its headquarters in South Korea, approved funds for 10 projects including geothermal energy in Caribbean nations, controlling flood risks from melting glaciers in Pakistan, and green energy in sub-Saharan Africa. The new funding raised the GCF total of approved projects so far in 2016 to about $1 billion, well behind schedule to realize the $2.5 billion target for its first full year of operation.
“We may not get there, we don’t know. But we think it’s important to have an aspiration,” Ewen McDonald of Australia, a co-chair of the GCF board, told Reuters after the board meeting in reference to the target.
The GCF board’s co-chair seems content to keep his organization’s goals aspirational, and that ought to send a chill up the spine of each and every developing world country’s climate delegate. If that defeatist attitude is representative of the culture of the GCF—a group that has already been described as under-staffed and over-stretched—then it’s hard to see the fund gaining any sort of traction even after it falls well short of this year’s targets.
Spending this money intelligently, and ensuring the UN has the proper oversight in place to make sure the projects funded are doing what they were meant to, is no easy task. It says something significant that coming up with $100 billion every year might not be the most pressing problem for the Green Climate Fund at the moment.