Nicaragua assumes top climate finance post despite past Paris scepticism

Paul Oquist has been approved as co-chair of the Green Climate Fund, against Georgia’s objection Nicaragua was not a cooperative international player

Paul Oquist and Lennart Båge have taken over as co-chairs of the Green Climate Fund board (Pic: GCF)

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Nicaragua’s Paul Oquist was rubber-stamped for a top international climate finance role this week, despite a token protest.

The central American country was the only one to refuse to adopt the Paris Agreement in 2015. Oquist told Climate Home News at the time basing the deal on voluntary national commitments was “a path to failure”.

Yet his government had a change of heart and joined the pact in 2017, clearing the way for Oquist to become co-chair of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) – a key mechanism to deliver the finance goals of the Paris Agreement.

At a board meeting of the UN-backed fund in Songdo, South Korea, a representative from Georgia objected to Oquist’s appointment before absenting himself while the rest of the board waved him through.

“This country [Nicaragua] quite often stands against the international community,” said Teimuraz Murgulia. “You may tell that Nicaragua has since rejoined the Paris Agreement, but nothing significant has changed since Paris.

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“In Georgia, we also consider that achieving results in combating climate change requires much more ambitious result. But instead of abstaining, we are joining up with one of the most ambitious groups of climate diplomacy.”

Georgia has joined the environmental integrity group in UN talks, Murgulia said, a small bloc of developed and middle-income countries including Mexico, South Korea and Switzerland.

Oquist declined an interview request to explain the evolution of Nicaragua’s position. In an emailed statement, he said he was “honored to have been elected” and the boardroom atmosphere was “very positive and supportive”.

After confirming Oquist and Sweden’s Lennart Båge as co-chairs, the board approved its biggest tranche of projects to date.

In a record board meeting, the fund committed more than $1 billion to 23 projects. These included $27 million for early warning systems and climate information services in Georgia.

Namibia became the first country to get through the fund’s new simplified approval process, getting $9.3 million to help smallholder farmers within three months of applying. The streamlined approach was a response to criticisms that hefty paperwork was blocking money from reaching the poorest and most vulnerable to climate change.

The board also adopted policies to protect indigenous people’s rights and manage the environmental and social impacts of projects. Members agreed to start talks on raising more money, a sensitive subject since the US – its single biggest donor – has signalled under Donald Trump an intention to halt contributions.

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