“We need a stronger taskforce”: pushing for better access to climate finance for vulnerable countries

The UK and Fiji governments are initiating a new Taskforce on Access to Climate Finance, and vulnerable countries have high hopes it will finally deliver improved climate finance access. Guest bloggers Carlos Fuller and Dhendrup Tshering discuss how to avoid failure and ensure the taskforce is set up for success.

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Carlos Fuller is Belize’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York; Dhendrup Tshering is an assistant planning officer at the Gross National Happiness Commission Secretariat, the Royal Government of Bhutan  
02 June 2021
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Giving local communities the ability to influence and decide priorities is crucial when it comes to climate finance (Illustration: copyright Irene Coletto/CartoonCollections.com)

The challenges vulnerable countries face when trying to access climate finance are well known. We have been raising them for years – during discussions at the UN climate negotiations, at high-level dialogues, in reports and across many other forums. Acknowledgement of the issues by climate finance providers has been slow, and action to address them even slower.

That’s why we strongly welcomed the UK government placing ‘access to climate finance’ so firmly on the agenda at the Climate and Development Ministerial in March.

This represented another chance, perhaps the last chance for some time, to bring everyone together to identify solutions for an enduring transformation of the climate finance system to truly deliver better climate action and financially empower vulnerable countries.

New taskforce – new hope?

One of the promises in the chair’s summary from the ministerial was for the UK and Fiji to work with other interested countries to initiate a new taskforce on climate finance access. This was proposed by vulnerable countries and received good traction during the ministerial.

We have high expectations for this taskforce, but the recently released draft concept note (PDF) does not set it up to deliver on the critical solutions. Without stronger ambition, we are concerned this will be another taskforce that comes and goes without any tangible improvement to the climate finance system.

But it’s not all bad – we appreciate that the draft concept note provides a good summary of the key challenges to accessing climate finance. We like that it references the principles for locally led adaptation and the Least Developed Countries Initiative for Effective Adaptation and Resilience (LIFE-AR).

We are also pleased it emphasises the need for climate finance providers to respond to the needs and visions of vulnerable countries, and that existing (not additional) climate plans at the country level should be leveraged. On these aspects, we feel that our voices had space, recognition, were considered important and were heard.

We need more of this. It is time that vulnerable countries are included more in decisions that influence the global fight against climate change.

On this basis, there are a number of ways to strengthen the draft concept note to ensure our voices have been fully heard.

Government officials and non-government representatives from vulnerable countries penned a joint letter to the UK government outlining how the draft concept note could be strengthened.

A broader workplan to ensure the taskforce can deliver

Our main recommendation is to add a second workstream to the taskforce’s workplan. We broadly welcome the first workstream that will develop proposals for scaling successful climate finance approaches in five pilot countries. But we are not confident that this single workstream will tackle the foundational issues that are creating barriers to vulnerable countries accessing climate finance.

The taskforce needs a second workstream so it can work inclusively with a broader set of vulnerable and wealthy governments, climate funds and intermediaries to progress the solutions put forward by vulnerable countries at the ministerial. As we outline in our letter, a second workstream should focus on:

  • Developing a functional climate finance definition and set new success criteria
  • Reforming climate finance institutions to prioritise direct access to climate finance
  • Designing a shared accreditation process, which we are calling an ‘empowerment pathway’, and
  • Improving trust through transparency.

Success is in the setup

Enabling the taskforce to deliver for vulnerable countries means getting the set-up and structure right from the start. Taskforce members should have adequate representation from vulnerable countries and ensure the climate funds and climate finance providers are on board.

The draft concept note should outline a clear timeline for delivery and specify for how long the taskforce will operate. It should also set out how the work of the taskforce will link to broader processes within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as well as to other taskforces and groups progressing related issues.

We stand ready to support genuine change

We acknowledge the taskforce can’t do everything. Genuine transformational change will take time, but vulnerable countries need to see progress before this year's climate summit (COP26) to be sure this process is worth investing time in.

Further, we also need to see climate finance commitments from wealthy countries that go beyond the US$100 billion per year target. Another six months cannot go past without clear action.

For now, we remain engaged and highly invested in working with the UK to establish a successful taskforce. We sincerely thank them for their leadership and recognise they are seeking to address a difficult legacy that is not just their own doing. 

But change is critical, and in its dual presidency role of both the G7 and COP26 this year, the UK is uniquely placed to leverage its position to drive this change.

In realising the hope for a better future and to stay committed in delivering our actions for climate change, it is time that vulnerable countries are included. Inclusivity is the formula for united efforts to tackle the global mandate of climate change.

The ball is back in the UK’s court now, and we’re ready and willing to stay in the game.

About the author

Carlos Fuller is Belize’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York.

Dhendrup Tshering is an assistant planning officer at the Gross National Happiness Commission Secretariat, the Royal Government of Bhutan

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