This past week, the board of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) met for the first time. This was an important milestone around the goal of increasing financial support to help developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change. Expectations are high for the Fund, officially established at the 2011 Durban climate talks. It's positioned to become the main global channel for climate finance, expected to reach $100 billion per year by 2020.
There was an atmosphere of excitement at last week's meetings in Geneva, which brought together a group of 24 countries and their alternates, charged with improving the mobilization of climate finance. The meeting itself focused largely on procedural actions, including the election of the two co-chairs.
As Zaheer Fakir of South Africa, co-chair of the board, said in a press statement, "Our task as the Board is to turn these agreements into implementable actions that can transform the livelihoods of people responding to the impacts of climate change."
Ewen McDonald of Australia, the other co-chair of the board, concurred, saying, "... the Fund will help developing countries take action on climate change and grow their economies in a sustainable way, which will benefit millions of people around the world."
Key issues for the GCF board
Beyond establishing the co-chairs, the first meeting left open several important questions and issues focused on making the Fund operational, including its location, creating a work plan for the coming year, and of course, actually operationalizing the mobilization of resources.
The following are several key issues that the Board will need to address in the days and weeks to come:
Maintaining an inclusive process: Throughout the GCF design process in 2011, much work has gone into ensuring that the process is equitable, transparent and participatory, and that the Fund's governance structure is perceived as legitimate. It will be essential that the Fund prioritizes maintaining an open and inclusive process throughout its establishment and operations. Indeed, the legitimacy of the Fund may rest on how well it succeeds in these areas.
Picking an executive director: The Board will need to put in place a process for selecting the executive director of the independent secretariat so that as soon as the host country is endorsed (expected at the Conference of the Parties in Doha, COP18, later this year), the Fund's work can begin.
A participatory process: It will be important to ensure that the Board is participatory, including bringing the official observers (from civil society and the private sector) more fully into the process. As the Board strives to create a Fund that surpasses existing funds in terms of governance and impact, it cannot afford to be seen as less progressive on issues of transparency and participation. Given the limited arrangements for observers stipulated in the governing instrument, the Board will have to find innovative ways to draw on the diversity of perspectives and expertise that comprise civil society and the private sector.
Developing a plan: The Board will need to develop a work plan that outlines how it will approach the tasks ahead of it and set a timeline by which to measure progress. It will have to strike a balance between realism - taking the time to do its work thoughtfully and thoroughly - and ambition - aiming for the lofty goals of scaled-up climate finance.
Establish operational processes: Beyond process, the Board should start to tackle the difficult strategic issues around how it will operate, including its business model, its vision for success in creating a climate fund that's truly transformational, its relationship with existing climate funds and institutions, and how it will operationalize access modalities and the private-sector facility.
Many of these issues will likely be taken up at the next meeting of the Board in Korea in October and again at the U.N. climate change conference in Doha later this year.
Urgent action needed
There has been much anticipation for the GCF, and the need for a functional Fund is urgent. Ultimately the Board - and the Fund itself - will be judged on outcomes, not processes. It needs to move decisively to prove that it can deliver resources - and do so in a way that is transparent and participatory. As developing countries face the challenges of climate change, the eyes of the world will be watching to see if the Fund can truly begin to mobilize resources to those in need.
This post by Louise Brown and Athena Ballesteros of the International Financial Flows and Environment Project at the World Resources Institute first appeared on WRI's Insights blog.