Help at hand for countries desperately seeking climate cash

Several big international funds, including the UN Green Climate Fund, are trying to dole out billions of dollars to countries and communities to help them tackle climate change by adapting to extreme weather and adopting renewable energy.

But most government officials and smaller institutions simply do not know how to access this money, experts say. Meeting the funds’ conditions is often laborious.

“There’s lots of money out there for climate change, but countries are having real difficulty in accessing it,” said Peter King, Bangkok-based senior policy adviser for the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES).

One of the most challenging issues is getting accredited to a fund, to be eligible for its grants and loans.

King said this was so difficult because tough accreditation rules apply to national and local-level agencies too.

“They’re looking for the same level of fiduciary responsibility and fiscal management as they ask of the Asian Development Bank,” he said.

High standards are needed to ensure the money is spent well and in line with funds’ policies on gender equality, for example. But extra support is needed for many developing countries to be able to meet those requirements.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF), which has collected pledges of around $10 billion and aims to commit $2.5 billion this year, wants to support smaller-scale projects, and provide direct access to its resources for developing-world banks, ministries and local agencies.

But those organisations are put off by the accreditation process, the GCF’s mitigation coordinator Youssef Arfaoui said after a presentation for climate experts in Bangkok this week.

“We have been saying to all these countries, if you need assistance to get accredited, we have colleagues, consulting companies, assisting them to get through accreditation,” said Arfaoui, who used to work with the African Development Bank.

“We know many agencies are not used to this system. They think it’s very difficult - but it’s not actually.”

In meetings with officials about their climate change action plans, Arfaoui watches out for projects in their pipeline so he can discuss how the GCF could help with their financing needs.

The GCF has what it calls a “readiness” programme, with $30 million available to help countries prepare to access its funding. So far 97 requests for support have been received, and 43 approved.

But when it comes to actual accreditation, of the 20 agencies that have the green light so far, the majority are regional, international and UN organisations.

Only a quarter are national level, including Rwanda’s Ministry of Natural Resources and India’s National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development.

Training for officials

Another reason for the limited success of efforts to hook up developing-country governments in need with international funding sources is that projects are often poorly designed.

“They’re just not able to put together quality projects,” said IGES’ King.

We think this would be a good service for countries that are having a hard time deciding which technology to adopt.

Peter King, senior policy adviser, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies

So now climate experts are planning to walk officials through proposals, with mentors, in a bid to secure financing.

King, who also leads USAID’s Asia-Pacific efforts on climate adaptation funding, is working on a proposal for a $20 million five-year programme to train 5,000 people to prepare high-quality projects to reduce emissions and adapt to climate shifts.

With USAID Adapt Asia-Pacific, he has developed three short courses on the economics of climate change adaptation, urban adaptation and resilience, and managing project preparation.

These courses will be part of the programme, planned to be launched at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) north of Bangkok, then rolled out at universities and institutions across Asia. It will be geared at mid-level government officials, who would bring along their project concepts to flesh out.

Afterwards, participants would continue working with a mentor until the project is ready to be submitted for financing, King said.

There will also be a practical testing-bed for clean technologies - for example, to see if they can withstand wet and dry seasons, or if there are any drawbacks. Each technology will get a one-page assessment, King said.

“We think this would be a good service for countries that are having a hard time deciding which technology to adopt,” he added.

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