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'Last window': Green Climate Fund chief urges reopening of U.S. finance tap

BARCELONA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - As the Green Climate Fund seeks to ramp up its financing for climate action and green recovery in developing nations, it needs the United States to restart contributions halted by its former president, the fund’s executive director said on Friday.

Donald Trump refused to deliver two-thirds of an initial $3-billion U.S. pledge to the multi-billion-dollar fund, set up under U.N. climate talks to help poorer countries pursue clean growth and adapt to a warming planet.

Green Climate Fund (GCF) chief Yannick Glemarec told the Thomson Reuters Foundation discussions with the new U.S. government had been “extremely positive (and) constructive”.

But he could not say when President Joe Biden’s administration would make an announcement on backing for the fund.

In January, U.S. special climate envoy John Kerry told a global climate adaptation summit the U.S would “make good” on its climate finance promise, without specifying when or how.

Many experts took that to mean it will deliver the $2 billion owed to the GCF.

Green groups and aid agencies have since called on the U.S. administration to contribute a further $6 billion, doubling its initial pledge as other major donor countries did in 2019.

All eyes are now on a summit of major-emitting countries hosted by Biden on April 22, designated Earth Day each year.

Kerry has said the United States will unveil its new 2030 emissions reduction target at, or just before, that meeting - and the new administration is also due to deliver a climate finance plan by the end of April.

Glemarec told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from his base in South Korea that the fund had allocated a record amount at its board meeting last week.

It approved $1.2 billion for 15 new climate projects - from a private equity fund for green energy and transport in India to help for farmers in Micronesia to keep their food crops safe from extreme weather and rising seas.

The board also green-lighted projects aimed at reducing emissions from forests in the Republic of Congo and protecting Cuba’s coastal ecosystems.

Those GCF investments will draw in $6.3 billion in additional funding from other sources, including the private sector, Glemarec noted.

“Today we have the best, and maybe the last, window of opportunity to meet the Paris Agreement (goals)” by backing green, climate-resilient recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, he said.

He emphasised the importance of the GCF’s role in helping developing countries bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic with low-carbon growth.

Green stimulus measures must be taken now to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by mid-century, he noted.

“Our future in 2050 depends on the investments that we are to make within the next two to three years,” he added.

Developing nations are pushing for more access to finance from multilateral climate funds and development banks, as many are mired in debt and struggling to tap international financial markets, a predicament made more acute by the pandemic.

Glemarec said the GCF has the capacity to allocate $1 billion to projects at each of its three board meetings per year, and could increase that to $1.5 billion.

But “with the resources that we have, we will not be able to maintain this rhythm”, he said. “We have more projects (in the pipeline) than we have resources.”

The U.S. decision on restarting contributions to the GCF will be decisive in whether the fund will use up the roughly $10 billion in pledges it has incoming before the end of its four-year fundraising cycle in 2023, or be able to scale up beyond its existing ambitions, he emphasised.

STAFF WOES

A shadow was cast over expectations of a revitalised relationship with the United States earlier this month when the Climate Home News website reported allegations of mistreatment of staff and poorly handled complaints at the GCF’s secretariat.

In an investigation of what was described as a “toxic” workplace culture, three whistle-blowers suggested U.S. money might be better directed elsewhere unless the problems were fixed.

Glemarec told the Thomson Reuters Foundation the fund had taken steps to improve its handling of staff grievances internally, and the results were starting to show - but stressed that the issue was “extremely serious”.

In a statement this month, the GCF said it had “zero tolerance to any forms of abuse and discrimination, and is committed to ensuring a safe workplace”.

Glemarec said the latest staff survey suggested employees were now most concerned about achieving a better work-life balance, and about career development and compensation.

He said he planned to present updated salary scales and human resources guidelines to the next board meeting in late June.

He said he did not know whether the fund’s internal troubles would have a negative impact on the U.S. decision about how much finance it will provide in the future, but said he had updated Washington on measures being taken to address the issue.

“They have access to all the data on what we are doing, on the different policies we are implementing,” he said. “I did not get any request for supplementary information.”

He said he remained hopeful the U.S. finance tap would be reopened and it was a key part of his job to make that happen.

“The last thing the world needs is an under-capitalised fund,” he emphasised.

Reporting by Megan Rowling @meganrowling; editing by Laurie Goering. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit news.trust.org/climate

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