The Green Climate Fund gets ready for business

The Green Climate Fund could start accepting pledges to aid developing countries as early as September, in time for U.N. Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon’s climate leaders summit in New York.

At a meeting last month in Songdo, South Korea, the fund’s board resolved a number of key organizational issues, clearing the way for the fund to start its mission as a channel for finance from developed to developing nations for climate mitigation and adaptation.

Finance for developing countries is a perennial issue in international climate negotiations. Many are hoping developed countries will come forward with new financial pledges at the September summit to help build momentum for a new global climate agreement in 2015. Many developed countries had said they would not make pledges until the fund’s organizational issues were resolved.

The Green Climate Fund will be a principal channel for delivering the $100 billion a year that developed countries agreed in Copenhagen to mobilize by 2020. The board, which is made up of representatives from 24 countries, has been meeting since August 2012 to determine how the fund would be organized and would operate.

After more than a year of sluggish progress, the board made a host of crucial decisions at last month’s meeting, most notably on the process for receiving and allocating funds.

The fund will initially operate with three thematic “windows” for different investments - mitigation, adaptation, and a separate opportunity for private sector projects to receive funding assistance. Money will go equally toward mitigation and adaptation activities (public and private). The funding will be given either as grants or as loans offered at below-market interest rates. To receive funding, recipients will need to go through an accreditation process and will need to make the case for specific investments based on a set of criteria and results.

The board also codified the Green Climate Fund’s structure and agreed on ongoing evaluation of its performance. The fund will comprise the board, a secretariat, a trustee of the funds, and ‘independent accountability units’ that will provide oversight. The fund will submit annual reports to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Committee of Parties (COP), which can offer guidance.

While the board has now provided clarity on how the Green Climate Fund will function, challenges remain. The biggest hurdle is that countries must now come forward with financial pledges to capitalize the fund. The fund will need to balance careful scrutiny of potential recipients and their projects’ worthiness with the need to act in a timely, efficient manner on requests. Businesses must be convinced that the benefits of using the Green Climate Fund outweigh the process for receiving funding. Finally, the fund must establish itself as an institution capable of managing significant flows of climate finance. After the agreements in Songdo, the Green Climate Fund is now ready to pursue that goal.