UN climate chief Christiana Figueres says climate fund board must be open for business this year
By Ed King
Green Climate Fund board members need to double their workload to ensure the flagship low carbon bank is ready for business on time, the UN’s top climate official has warned.
Speaking in London, Christiana Figueres said the “clock is ticking” and stressed the importance of the GCF being ready by the time Secretary General Ban Ki-moon convenes a summit in September.
“The GCF is a fundamental piece of the agreement, and it’s not just the existence but the capitalisation.” Figueres said.
“They are very aware the Secretary General’s summit is a very important political moment where they can unleash the capitalisation, they are not going to let that go. So they’re going to have to work doubly at the next board meeting.”
The UN wants the GCF to play a key role in channelling billions of dollars into low carbon investment to developing countries, but fears are growing it may not be ready as hoped this year.
It’s seen as critical because many developing countries say they cannot submit any emission reduction targets until they receive guarantees over how much financial support they will receive to invest in clean energy technologies.
Developed countries provided around US$30 billion between 2010-2012, but subsequent contributions have been limited.
Leading climate change economist Lord Stern has told RTCC a “trillion dollars a year around climate orientated investments” will be needed in emerging markets and developing countries.
A February meeting in Bali ended with the board agreeing just two of the ‘eight essential requirements’ for it to start accepting funds.
One NGO observer in Bali who wished to stay anonymous branded the three-day gathering a “shambles”.
Others tweeted their disapproval as the final day of the meeting included discussions on which class of airline ticket board members could use to fly to future meetings.
— Alix Mazounie (@ClimatAlix) February 21, 2014
Board member Patrick McCaskie, who represents the Alliance of Small Island States at GCF meetings, told RTCC that the institution could still open on time.
“We have a substantial amount of work to do. We are considering having a board meeting between May and September as these are complex issues, and an interim or informal meeting could help fast-track decisions,” he said.
Decisions on how money will be allocated have been taken, but it is still unclear how much control countries will have over investments, what the environmental safeguards will be and who will be ‘accredited’ to receive the money.
Earlier this week lead UK climate official Pete Betts told RTCC the country was ready to make a contribution to the GCF, but had so been prevented due to the fund’s lack of preparedness.
Brandon Wu, a climate finance expert with the NGO ActionAid, told RTCC the board had “continued avoiding making decisions where there are substantial disagreements.”
Wu added that ActionAid would like to see more experts from a wide range of areas brought in to support the board and the South Korea-based Secretariat, which is reportedly understaffed.
Figueres said she is confident about the current shape of the UN climate talks, describing the mood among governments as “quite positive”.
The next round of talks starts in Bonn on Monday, with negotiators tasked with developing a draft text for a global climate change deal that the UN hopes will be signed in Paris next December.
She said the proposed 2015 deal would be significantly different to the Kyoto Protocol, and would employ “hybrid approach” of nationally determined targets and internationally agreed rules.
And Figueres stressed the need for long-term strategic investments from governments and businesses in low carbon energy systems, warning that whatever is agreed in 2015 will not, on its own, prevent dangerous rises in global temperatures.
“Whatever is possible now is fundamentally insufficient – to keep us under 2C, and that realisation is there. There is a serious gap.”