Despite challenges, Green Climate Fund is critical to global action

A strong, effective fund is needed more than ever to serve the Paris Agreement, writes Javier Manzanares.

Farmer in the Philippines planting rice
The Philippine government, with World Bank funding and oversight, has established programmes to address climate related food security concerns. Funding is key to realising the Sustainable Development Goals. Image: Bread for the World, CC BY-ND 2.0

It has been a difficult few weeks for the Green Climate Fund (GCF). During a session dominated by governance debates, our last board meeting was unable to consider funding new projects, or measures to strengthen some aspects of our investment policies, and the resignation of executive director Howard Bamsey was announced. 

There is no hiding behind PR spin: this has been something of a setback for the fund. But although it is a tough time, GCF’s role as a key channel for climate finance remains critical to the success of international climate action.

Even as the ink was drying on the Paris Agreement back in 2015, we knew that success would be measured by action, not just words. Now we need to implement the Paris Agreement—and channeling and mobilising climate finance via GCF is an essential element of that deal.

Climate finance ensures that developing countries can avoid following the high-carbon development pathways of the past, and builds the resilience of their populations in the face of climate change impacts.

A strong, effective Green Climate Fund is needed more than ever to serve the Paris Agreement and to support the international community’s climate ambitions. GCF can channel a significant share of the $100 billion of climate finance that needs to be mobilised. And we can leverage our resources to help change the direction of global financial flows towards climate-resilient, low-emissions investments.

Whilst we certainly need to do more, GCF has a huge role to play, and is already delivering results. We are developing a strong portfolio of climate projects.

The board is certainly facing challenges that it needs to overcome at its next meeting in October. But to put it in context, our 19th board meeting this spring approved over $1 billion of investment across 23 new funding proposals.

They include building the resilience of Caribbean islands to climate-induced hurricanes, an innovative new resilient agriculture fund for Africa, credit financing for rooftop solar power in India, and a coastal protection programme for the low-lying Marshall Islands in the Pacific. And that was just one board meeting.

In total we have committed over $4 billion to support developing countries in their low-emission, climate-resilient development—with 70 percent of our adaptation funding going directly to Small Island Developing States, Least Developed Countries and Africa.

We are also speeding up implementation. Although we are a young fund, 31 of our projects worth $1.4 billion are already being implemented.

In Egypt, for example, our investments are facilitating private sector investment in renewable energy, supporting the development of the world’s largest solar park in Benban. In Malawi, early warning systems are protecting the livelihoods—and the lives—of farmers and fishers who are vulnerable to extreme weather events. And we have many other projects that are driving climate action around the world: from Vanuatu to Morocco, from Mongolia to Peru.

Growing pains

Fighting climate change is the biggest challenge the world faces—and it’s hard work. The difficulties that GCF sometimes encounters are a microcosm of this, as the world strives to make the transformations we need to survive.

GCF has a unique model of governance, with balanced representation between developed and developing countries on our 24-person board. This is an inclusive approach to be proud of, but it can be challenging, particularly since all board decisions are taken by consensus. Our commitment to transparency means that we live out our growing pains in public, livestreaming all our board meetings, and publishing funding proposals and even early concept notes on our website.

Difficult decisions will continue to be needed as we move towards the end of our first funding period. We will allocate the remainder of our first tranche of investment funding, and prepare to move towards replenishing the fund. 

Our next board meeting will be in Bahrain from October 17-20. Based on guidance from the board, we will manage the fund’s project pipeline to ensure maximum climate impact while at the same time balancing commitments and diversity across our results areas and between the implementing partners we fund.

In total we have committed over $4 billion to support developing countries in their low-emission, climate-resilient development—with 70 percent of our adaptation funding going directly to Small Island Developing States, Least Developed Countries and Africa.

We have a huge pipeline of climate projects that is aligned with developing country priorities, and we will be proposing new funding proposals for the board to consider in October, alongside proposals that were originally tabled for our last board meeting.

We are in a strong position to deliver. We have a committed and professional secretariat at our HQ in Songdo, Republic of Korea, working with an effective network of partners at international, regional, and national levels.

We are strengthening our support for developing countries to plan their climate actions, and simplifying the procedures to access GCF resources. By working together, GCF and its partners are stepping up to the challenge of turning the climate finance promises made at the Paris climate summit into action.

Javier Manzanares is Deputy Executive Director of the Green Climate Fund. This story was published with permission from Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, corruption and climate change. Visit

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