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Beyond Paris: GCF Looks Ahead

With climate finance as a critical element to the Paris climate negotiations, the Green Climate Fund held a side event at COP 21 to discuss how it can deliver on its mandate over the coming years. Over 300 participants gathered to discuss the future of the Fund with both the former and new Board Co-Chairs (Henrik Harboe and Gabriel Quijandria, and Zaheer Fakir and Ewen McDonald, respectively), and Héla Cheikhrouhou, GCF’s Executive Director.

The discussion was chaired by Oxfam’s Annaka Peterson, and started with a welcome message from Jeong-bok Yoo, the Mayor of Incheon City, which hosts the Fund’s headquarters.

Board members agreed that GCF has come a long way in a short time. But 2016 is likely to prove even more demanding on the Board, Secretariat, and all of the Fund’s partners and stakeholders if it is to develop according to the Board’s wishes. 

Mr. Harboe recalled that it was little more than a year since GCF’s initial pledging conference in Berlin had rapidly raised USD 10 billion, and only five months since half of those pledges were converted into usable commitments, signalling that the Board could declare the Fund open for business.

Since then, as Mr. Quijandria pointed out, the Fund had processed and approved its first set of projects, fulfilling the request of the COP to make funding decisions before Paris. Mr. Quijandria stated that the Board’s aspiration is to expand its investment portfolio to USD 2.5 billion in 2016 – a massive increase from the USD 168 million of the first investments, which took place within four months.

Mr. McDonald recognized the work that needed to be done to reconcile the project pipeline with the Board’s USD 2.5 billion aspiration. 

This would include seeking to streamline procedures and further rolling out readiness funding. Ms. Cheikhrouhou outlined some of the other day-to-day priorities, including supporting readiness funding, the accreditation process, and National Designated Authorities (NDAs), and building stakeholder relations – in addition to providing support to the Board and processing submitted project proposals.

Mr. Fakir observed that in order to reach this level of ambition, the Fund would need a very clear vision, and that the agreement of a strategic plan by the Board would be critical to this and to providing clear guidance on issues such as risk appetite, incremental cost calculation, and co-financing. 

GCF’s objective is to be a game-changer for climate finance through its innovative approach – the Fund should be doing “business unusual,” as Mr. Fakir stated, inspiring and catalysing action on the ground. 

However, panelists argued that driving fundamental change did not only mean making large programmes. Smaller projects can create replicable success and have a real impact on people’s lives, and direct access can be key. Ms. Cheikhrouhou pointed out that efficiency and effectiveness, rather than size, are investment criteria, and that the Board will be working to develop minimum benchmarks for investments.

Panelists responded to calls for more consultation and engagement by strongly agreeing that GCF cannot succeed on its own, but only through stakeholder engagement and country ownership. “The Fund is what we all make it,” as Mr. Fakir stated. Strengthened communication was needed, and here the role of NDAs would be key at the national level in working with stakeholders and explaining how to engage with the Fund. 

In acknowledging the essential role of stakeholder engagement, all panelists also welcomed the strong interest and knowledge of GCF demonstrated by the questions and comments from the floor, and expressed the desire to continue such exchanges in the future to help the Fund reach its goals beyond Paris.

Listen to the recording of this side event here.