Viewpoint: Putting climate puzzle together

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After the disappointment of the much-heralded 2009 Copenhagen Accord, the 2010 Cancun Agreements were considered to have achieved some progress, because an agreement was reached to establish the Green Climate Fund in order to scale up the provision of long-term financing for developing countries.

In the run-up to COP 17 last year, largely unbeknownst to the public, rich and poor governments were busy working on the design of the Climate Fund, aimed at mobilising $100 billion a year by 2020 for mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

But, do we really need and can we afford a new global fund, particularly in today’s distressed financial environment?

The Global Environment Facility (GEF), a fund created on the eve of the historic Rio Earth Summit of 1992 to promote sustainable development in poor countries, has been serving as the major source of financing for the global environmental conventions created in Rio, including climate change.

The GEF also operates two funds on behalf of the Climate Change Convention, the Special Climate Change Fund and the Least Developed Countries Fund.

These funds have provided $420 million in grants to developing countries in an effort to reduce vulnerability to climate change in the context of their national development.

An Adaptation Fund was also established under the Kyoto Protocol of the Climate Change Convention.

Similar funds exist at various regional development banks, United Nations agencies and bilateral aid agencies, all dealing with climate change.

Given this long line of funds, why do Africa, and its developing countries counterparts, need yet another fund for climate change? What can a new fund do that existing funds and institutions cannot?

GEF chief executive officer and chairperson Monique Barbut says the common response is we need a fund which can provide resources at a scale that is large enough to move economies away from their dependence on fossil fuel-based energy systems.

She adds a secondary response is that we need a fund which is more democratic in its governance structure.

While dreaming up a new fund that can mobilise hundreds of billions of dollars is indeed an exciting thought exercise, it may not be practical, particularly in a distressed economic environment where developed countries are in dire financial straits.

A good example is in 2011, Barbut says, the world observed the acrimonious battles over the budget and the debt ceiling in the United States Congress.

In 2010, Congress approved only $90 million of the $144 million pledged by the US to the GEF; this year is not expected to be any better. The Climate Investment Fund fared even worse.

Hence, it is futile to hope that a new mega fund will be received by US legislators with any warmth. Ironically, designers of the Climate Change Fund are, of course, cognisant of these facts, with their hopes apparently pinned on the private sector accounting for most of this $100 billion per year—at least, this is the view of most developed countries.

But, there are many hurdles, including the fact that no private sector participation is envisioned on the Board of the Fund, and that the expectations from most developing countries are the Fund should be sourced from government budgets.

Yes, a truly transformative approach to climate change finance at the level of $100 billion per year could be achieved if the world takes a different approach.

But countries have to deal with the current chaos and under-resourcing of the climate change finance system.

While others want a new climate change, it is imperative that existing funds are strengthened, regularity in funding flows, and reform of governance processes towards more transparent and democratic systems.

The Climate Fund could be established as a virtual “fund of funds” that coordinates across all existing sources of funds, including tracking private sector investments, GEF says.

This fund of funds should also have its own resources to complement the actual resources of the different funds, so that it can respond as the guidance for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change evolves.

This would require that the Climate Fund negotiations focus on a governance structure that, while accountable to the parties to the Convention on Climate Change, can oversee, coordinate, and integrate the work of existing climate funds in a democratic and transparent fashion.

As it were, a lack of ambition at the global level cannot be an excuse for poor implementation of serious mitigation measures and adaptation strategies at the national level.

Curiously for Africa in general and Zimbabwe in particular, climate change must be funded by the West.

Yet, an end to business-as-usual also means that all policies in all sectors of the economy have to be climate-proof and contribute to low carbon,
resource-efficient and climate-resilient development in the country.

Ambitious, innovative, and effective measures and policies at the local and national levels will in the end prepare ground for a fair global deal.

Contributing to the global goal of reducing carbon emissions by up to 90% by year 2100 is the responsibility of every government albeit according to responsibility and capability.

Zimbabwe can make a collective dream a reality by putting to work what we already have.

millenniumzimbabwe@yahoo.com or follow me on http://twitter.com/wisdomdzungairi