Q&A: Why is the Green Climate Fund's pledging meeting important?

Article, 18 November 2014

Camilla Toulmin, Director of IIED, spoke with Pa Ousman Jarju, The Gambia's Minister of Environment, Climate Change, Water Resources, and Parks and Wildlife and the first Special Climate Envoy to be appointed from a Least Developed Country, about the importance of the GCF summit and what it means for the world's vulnerable nations at COP20 in Lima and beyond.

Pa Ousman Jarju, the first Special Climate Envoy to be appointed from a Least Developed Country (Photo: IISD)

Why is the Green Climate Fund's pledging summit in Berlin so important?

This week sees the international Green Climate Fund (GCF) hold a high-level pledging summit in Berlin (19-20 November) with hopes of securing its minimum target of $10 billion USD by the end of 2014; a hope that seems more likely to be realised following recent events.

The last week has seen significant action and discussion around financial pledges at the G20 – with key countries such as the US and Japan making strong pledges ($3 billion and $1.5 billion respectively). Canada has since moved on its previous joint opposition with Australia to the GCF, and announced it would also donate to the fund, although it is yet to confirm a figure. Additionally it is expected that the UK will announce a pledge of around $1billion in Berlin.

Camilla Toulmin, Director of IIED spoke with The Gambia's Minister of Environment, Climate Change, Water Resources, and Parks and Wildlife and the first Special Climate Envoy to be appointed from a Least Developed Country, Pa Ousman Jarju, about the importance of the GCF summit and what it means for world’s vulnerable nations at COP20 in Lima and beyond.

Are you encouraged by the progress you've seen on the Green Climate Fund?

The fund has made significant progress since it was established in 2010. As The Gambia's lead negotiator at the time, I witnessed the fund's appointment as the financial mechanism of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In subsequent negotiations, I chaired the Group of Least Developed Countries (LDC) as we pushed for decisions to ensure the Green Climate Fund would provide equal funding for adaptation and mitigation. 

The LDCs are the 48 poorest and most vulnerable nations in the world. Accessing finance that allows us to adapt to the impacts of climate change is critical. Last year, the Green Climate Fund decided to allocate 50 per cent of its funding to adaptation. The LDCs saw this equal priority for adaptation as a truly progressive step toward meeting the needs of vulnerable nations. It was also decided that half of the adaptation funding will be earmarked for LDCs, Small Island Developing States (SIDs) and countries in Africa. I view these decisions as encouraging indicators that nations like The Gambia will be able to access the type of funding it requires in the future. 

The Green Climate Fund will hold a High-Level Pledging Conference from 19-20 November in Berlin. What are your expectations as one of the LDCs? Are you optimistic about what will come from this?

I want to hear significant pledges come out of Berlin. We expect a minimum of $15 billion to come out of the pledging conference. We are glad that, with the recent US and Japan pledges, it has reached around $7.5 billion. The conditions are right for action.

The recent UN Climate Summit fostered political momentum. More than 100 world leaders spoke of climate change as an issue of national priority. The most recent meetings of the Green Climate Fund's Board have set in place the technical guidelines to ready recipient and donor nations alike. These indicators set a strong expectation for significant pledges to come out of Berlin.

Some developed countries have pledged, but many of them are still to make a commitment to the fund. Are there any countries that you feel should particularly step up with pledges?

I expect the UK to come forward with a pledge to match, if not exceed, the current pledges on the table. We've heard the recent statements from the Department of Energy and Climate Change Minister Amber Rudd that the UK's pledge will be a strong one. As a leading provider of climate finance, I look forward to hearing of strong numbers coming from the UK.

President Obama's commitment to acting on climate change is a subject of much media attention, particularly after the UN Climate Summit. What would you hope to see from countries such as the US?

We are encouraged by the recent pledge to the GCF by the US at the G20. This initial pledge of $3 billion solidifies the initiative shown by President Obama in his statement at the UN Climate Summit and his recent joint statement with China's President Xi Jinping. 

I also expect wealthy nations such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, those European nations who have not contributed to step forward. They have made commitments to finance climate actions and the time has come to fulfil them.

There has been a change in the geopolitics of countries making pledges, for example Mexico has pledged $10 million to the fund. Which countries do you think might follow Mexico's example and what implications does this have for developed countries?

The largest contribution from a developing country thus far has come from the Republic of Korea. They have pledged $100 million to the Green Climate Fund. Unlike the wealthy nations whose pledges represent a portion of the commitments they have already promised to fulfil, the pledges of Mexico, Korea and Indonesia who pledged US $250,000 are completely voluntary. 

As an LDC, I applaud the leadership shown by these nations. I urge any developing nation with the means to do so to follow their example. Peru, the host of the next UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP20), has already demonstrated significant leadership. I would not be surprised if they too came forward with a pledge to the fund.

These pledges demonstrate a powerful commitment to ensuring a climate resilient world in which all nations act to both reduce emissions and help vulnerable countries adapt to the impacts of climate change. They also put pressure on wealthy countries to honour their commitments to provide climate finance.

China has pledged to support South-South cooperation and intends to explore this further at COP20 – how do you think this will impact the road to Paris?

At the UN Climate Summit, China pledged to double its annual support for a South-South cooperation fund to help other developing countries. While these finances are not earmarked for the Green Climate Fund, China still has the opportunity to pledge to the fund. At COP20, China intends to host its first annual Conference on South-South Cooperation on Climate Change to explore opportunities for enhancing this type of work. We are looking forward to hearing more about this in the coming days.

What are the consequences of not meeting the Green Climate Fund financial target of significant amount by the end of 2014?

Perhaps the most serious consequence of not meeting the financial targets would be mistrust. Under the UNFCCC, the world is currently negotiating the next international climate treaty to be agreed in December 2015. The provision of finance, particularly by wealthy countries, will allow for more ambitious reductions in emissions, from all nations. 

Finance also extends a guarantee that wealthy nations take seriously their commitments to both fund and make adaptation a priority. As the penultimate year on the road to Paris, 2014 is the time to send tangible signals that we are serious about climate action and committing to a new agreement. Meeting the $15 billion target is 2014's test of this commitment.  

What kind of pressure would a disappointing Pledging Conference in Berlin put on the ministerial meeting on climate finance in Lima?

On 9 December, ministers will gather for a high-level dialogue on climate finance. This meeting will be the last opportunity of 2014 for nations to make financial pledges. Should the initial capitalisation of the Green Climate Fund not be completed in November, the ministerial dialogue will be under tremendous pressure to assure negotiations of the 2015 agreement which will have begun a week prior do not fold. 

The ministerial dialogue is meant to address more than the Green Climate Fund. The LDC Group hopes to witness bold pledges to the fund dedicated to the LDCs, the Least Developed Countries Fund, at the dialogue. Getting the Green Climate Fund to a target of $15 billion before Lima is crucial to ensuring negotiations continue and can address all issues on the table without delay.

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