Green Climate Fund could end up financing coal and gas, warn NGOs

Concerns India and China could push for looser green safeguards as GCF board gathers to rubber-stamp regulations

(Pic: Bigstock)

(Pic: Bigstock)

By Ed King

The UN’s Green Climate Fund could end up backing coal and oil industries unless effective safeguards are agreed at a meeting next week, says a coalition of over 250 civil society groups.

A letter to the GCF board underlines their “grave concern” that lax rules could allow fossil fuel projects to receive finance, undermining the main aims of the organisation.

“We urge you to make it an explicit policy – as part of the Investment Framework and Results Management Framework that GCF funds will not be used directly or indirectly for financing fossil fuel and other harmful energy projects or programs,” say the groups.

They say other international financial institutions have found themselves locked into backing some gas and coal plants because they offer “lower carbon” alternatives.

The GCF board will gather in Songdo, South Korea on Sunday for a critical four-day meeting where they are expected to agree how the fund will operate.

REPORT: Trillions at stake as GCF board gathers for crunch meet

Billions of dollars from the public and private sectors are expected to flow through the GCF over the next few years, helping poorer countries invest in cleaner energy systems and prepare for extreme weather events.

Part of the board’s discussions will focus on environmental safeguards and guidelines on what kinds of projects can be backed.

Its proposed Investment Framework says proposed activities must prove they can limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“The Fund will finance projects and programmes that demonstrate the maximum potential for a paradigm shift towards low carbon and climate resilient sustainable development,” says the text.

An advisor to the GCF, speaking to RTCC under condition of anonymity, said there were concerns that India and China would try and ensure investment in ‘cleaner’ fossil fuels are either explicitly or implicitly included in some form.

Both countries rely heavily on coal to power their electricity grids, and view future investments in natural gas as climate-friendly.

The UN’s Clean Development Mechanism – a huge carbon market designed to incentivise low carbon growth in developing countries – faced similar criticism after it backed over 40 ‘efficient’ coal power plants in China and India.

To qualify for the CDM, coal projects must show it played a decisive role in moving from less-efficient subcritical coal technology to more-efficient and lower-emitting supercritical or ultra-supercritical technologies

But Asad Rehman, Head of International Climate at Friends of the Earth EWNI, warned the GCF will have to operate under far stricter guidelines if it is to fulfil its mandate.

“Financing any fossil fuels and harmful energy through the Green Climate Fund is fundamentally in conflict with what people the world over are demanding, what the mandate of the founding document of Green Climate Fund actually says, and with climate science and common sense,” he said.

Read more on: Climate finance | Green Climate Fund