Why rich countries must dig deeper to replenish the Green Climate Fund | WWF
Why rich countries must dig deeper to replenish the Green Climate Fund

Posted on 18 October 2019

Next week, Paris will play host to a meeting that will prove a measure of the international community’s response to the growing climate emergency: the Green Climate Fund (GCF) replenishment High-Level Pledging Conference.

The early indications are that the conference, on 24-25th October, will fail to lead to contributions greater than the sum committed to the GCF’s “initial resource mobilisation” (IRM) in 2014. We have been calling for a doubling of the $10 billion pledged in 2014 but – at the time of writing in early October – just $7.5 billion had been committed.

However, it is not too late for rich counties to respond to growing public concern about climate change, stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the world’s most vulnerable people, and dig deeper to properly fund the GCF.

Funding the response to climate change

The GCF is a critical part of the multilateral architecture built to tackle climate change. Its establishment was agreed in 2010 by the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change with a mission to underwrite “a paradigm shift towards low-emission and climate-resilient development pathways”.

Since it become operational in 2015, the GCF has allocated more than $5.2 billion to 111 climate projects in 99 countries, addressing both mitigation and adaptation. It has also approved $160 million for capacity-building activities to help 126 developing countries identify and address their most pressing climate challenges.

GCF is committed to deliver equal amounts of funding to mitigation and adaptation, with a particular focus on those countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. At a time of climate emergency, these funds are urgently needed – and they need to be significantly increased.

The GCF is a central part of the international climate finance architecture built into the Paris Agreement. Finance is one of the three support elements that underpins the agreement’s implementation, alongside technology transfer and capacity building, and is part of the bargain that brings together developing and developed countries in a common effort to address climate change.

Increasing contributions

The GCF is an indicator of the willingness of industrialised countries – which have grown wealthy by exploiting fossil energy – to support poorer countries as they face the full force of a destabilised climate, and as they make efforts to develop in a climate-friendly fashion.

Replenishment is also taking place in the context of expectations that all countries will scale up efforts to accelerate the shift to low and zero emissions and climate resilient development. It is difficult to argue that developing countries should demonstrate greater ambition in the absence of increased GCF contributions from rich nations.

What might these contributions look like? The original pledges in 2014 totalled $10.4 billion. However, after the Trump Administration reneged on part of the US commitment, and once currency revaluations had, in US dollar terms, diminished other pledges, just $7.2 billion was available.

Key contributors, including France, Germany, Norway, Sweden and the UK have announced a doubling of their contributions, measured in local currencies. Japan, the largest contributor to the fund in the last round, at $1.5 billion, is yet to announce its new commitment, while the governments of the US and Australia have refused to contribute to the fund at all.

An investment in climate action  

Whatever the new contributions at the Pledging Conference next week and thereafter, this GCF replenishment reinforces the role of the Green Climate Fund as a crucial part of the global climate finance architecture. Those countries that have doubled their contribution, especially those who were already punching above their per capita or per GDP weight, should be congratulated.

We are hopeful that the Japanese government will ally itself with climate action and double its US dollar equivalent contribution. It is not too late for other leading contributors to increase their commitments, ensuring that their funding is doubled in dollar terms. Ideally, we would also like to see some of the wealthier developing countries that participated in the IRM in 2014 contribute to the replenishment – although we acknowledge that, when the world’s richest economy refuses to pay its way, they have a good excuse not to.

All developed countries will have the chance to prove their commitment to financing climate action over the coming year, through their contribution to meeting the $100 billion commitment by 2020.

It is clear that investments in the trillions of dollars will ultimately be needed to address climate change. It is also increasingly evident that these investments will pay for themselves many times over and will cost considerably less than the bill we would face if we choose to ignore the threat posed by climate change. But, unfortunately, those investments can’t be deferred: governments need to pay now if we are not to face a much more costly reckoning in the decades to come.

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal is the leader of WWF's climate and energy practice. He is based in Lima, Peru. 
Seedlings being planted at a nursery in Amaltari, Nepal.
© Karine Aigner/WWF-US