The Green Climate Fund (GCF) Board wrapped up its second meeting on Saturday with a major decision: selecting Songdo City in South Korea to host the fund.
The decision, which was adopted by consensus of the board, was greeted with joy by the Koreans, who spared no effort to provide an offer of the highest quality to earn the confidence of the board. The UNFCCC Conference of Parties will have to endorse this decision at its next meeting in Doha later this year to confirm the selection.
The GCF is expected to be instrumental in distributing the funds that will help developing nations adapt to and mitigate climate change. As the host country, South Korea now has the opportunity to play an important role in ensuring that the GCF fulfills this responsibility.
As a country that has in a short time transitioned from a recipient of overseas development assistance to a contributor, South Korea understands the perspectives of both developed and developing countries. It has firsthand experience of the challenges of lifting a nation out of poverty.
South Korea is also now positioning itself as a global leader on climate change issues. The country is committed to pursuing "green growth" that ensures that economic growth and development go hand-in-hand with achieving environmental goals and combating climate change.
As the host of the second GCF Board meeting, South Korea demonstrated its preparedness to host the GCF, displaying efficiency and strong organizational skills. The country's commitment to supporting the GCF was evident in the warm and generous welcome given to all participants, including an address from President Lee Myung-Bak.
In addition to the important selection of host country, the board had a number of other tasks to complete at its second meeting. It agreed on an ambitious work program for 2013, which includes tackling some of the main design issues that the Board will have to agree on in order to make the GCF operational.
The structure and strategy the fund will use to carry out its functions, or its "business model," is a priority issue on the agenda for the first meeting next year. Determining how the GCF conduct its work - including how it will interact with the private sector and how countries will access funds - will be key to moving forward with operationalizing the fund.
Also on the agenda for the first meeting next year are modalities for readiness support, establishment of an independent secretariat, selection of the head, and figuring out resource mobilization, which is critical to ensuring that the fund is not an "empty shell".
CONCERN OVER CIVIL SOCIETY INPUT
The outcome of the board's discussion of observer participation was less satisfactory. Despite wide recognition of the important role that civil society and private sector observers play in ensuring transparency and bringing independent experience and expertise to the discussions, the board was unable to agree on arrangements to enable participation of the four active observers provided for in the Fund's "governing instrument".
As a result, civil society and private sector contributions to board decisions have remained ad-hoc and sub-optimal, a serious concern as the board makes decisions on its business model and operational strategies.
Without a formal process for enabling input from civil society and the private sector, it will be very difficult for these groups to engage constructively in the dialogue. Their lack of involvement also sets a poor precedent on transparency and participation.
A number of suggestions for observer participation have been put forward by civil society and private sector groups, including ideas for a transparent self-selection process.
While the GCF board reached an important milestone in selecting a host country, it has its work cut out in 2013. All eyes will be watching to see if it can live up to the bold ambitions it has set for itself and attract significant funding pledges in a timely manner so that it can begin disbursing funds.
The board will need to be focused and pro-active in pursuing its vision. It will also need to draw on the collective wisdom and creativity of its members, as well as external stakeholders in civil society and the private sector.
These actions are needed in order to create a fund that inspires the confidence of all its stakeholders and achieves its lofty goal of spurring low-carbon, climate-resilient development.
Louise Brown is a research analyst for the International Financial Flows and the Environment (IFFE) project at the World Resources Institute. This blog was first posted on the WRI website.