Green Climate Fund a wonderful idea, but if only we could access it!

UNEP programme manager Jeremy McDaniels and other panellists at the opening of the Green Finance Conference

UNEP programme manager Jeremy McDaniels and other panellists at the opening of the Green Finance Conference at InterContinental Hotel, Nairobi, on June 21, 2017.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The Green Climate Fund (GCF), which is the largest multinational funding mechanism under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, has been a big disappointment for Africa. 

Since its inception in 2014, it has made little impact on the continent. Moreover, an independent evaluation commissioned by the Green Climate Fund board late last year on the relevance and effectiveness of the fund’s investment in Africa showed several challenges were identified that impede its ability to benefit African countries. 

The evaluation found that, first, national ownership of projects and programmes has been limited. Although a number of countries have designated authorities at the national level to oversee the grants, the capacity of their staff varies.

In some cases, internal coordination is very difficult between the national designated authority and their accredited entities (in the case of Kenya, the National Treasury and the National Environment Management Authority, Nema, respectively). 

It also found that, in some countries, not all stakeholders are involved in the projects. For the fund to be effective and relevant, national ownership must be given priority.

Secondly, most of the funds for the design and implementation of projects are accessed through international entities, such as the World Bank, rather than via direct nationally accredited entities, of which there are only 18 in 13 of the 54 African countries. This matter is yet to be addressed by the fund’s board. 

For entities in Africa, the average delay in getting accreditation is longer than the global average. For example, Tunisia still has no accredited entities, six years after it applied. Kenya has only two accredited entities—the Nema (grants) and KCB Bank (soft loans). This defeats the goal of dealing with the climate emergency. What Africa needs are flexible procedures for approving several accredited entities in every country.

Thirdly, most of the approved projects are multi-country. Unfortunately, the projects cover wide geographical areas and, in most cases, have very little impact and participating countries do not feel ownership of them.

Moreover, these types of projects often are not aligned with national priorities and requirements as per the nationally determined contributions reports. The emphasis thus needs to shift to national-level projects.

Lack experts

Fourth, most African countries lack experts on climate change. This has hindered the national preparation of bankable projects for soft loans as well as other proposals to access funding. Hence, internationally accredited entities find it easier to access the fund because they have extensive experience and can prepare and implement projects more quickly than African national institutions. 

The GCF Secretariat should make available funds under the Readiness and Preparatory Support Programme to train a critical mass of expertise to assist countries to prepare quality proposals for review and approval.

Fifth, access to funding has been low in Africa due to cumbersome demands and associated resource intensity. Many fund processes are not cognisant of the urgency and need in African countries; and application procedures are cumbersome and rigid, making accessing fund financing difficult, time-consuming and costly.

Further, these procedures are complicated by the official language of the secretariat being only English. For non-Anglophone countries, the preparation of projects, including translation, is very expensive. Given that Francophone countries are the majority in Africa, the issue of multiple official languages should be revisited by the GCF board.

What Africa needs are flexible and streamlined procedures that allow for fast approval of funds to respond to the climate emergency. According to the report, Africa lags behind other regions and the fund will serve no purpose if it does not simplify its complex and rigid approval and accreditation processes. Further, countries should be allowed to have, at a minimum, a few accredited entities. 

Lastly, until such changes are implemented, other partners, like private sector co-financing in areas such as renewable energy activities, will continue to be discouraged from engaging with climate change initiatives.

Dr Kakonge, PhD, is a development expert and former Kenya Ambassador/Permanent Representative to the UN Office and WTO in Geneva, Switzerland. [email protected]