LISBON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The Green Climate Fund, set up to help developing countries tackle climate change, could seek to refill its coffers in 2019, a year which is likely to see “a huge amount of attention on climate finance”, said the fund’s executive director.
Howard Bamsey, a former Australian diplomat, said the fund could reach the trigger point for its replenishment process later this year if the share of available funds it has allocated for projects reaches 60 percent.
The fund began making investment decisions in 2015, with pledges from donor governments of $10.3 billion.
But it is expected to receive only about $8 billion of that after U.S. President Donald Trump - a climate change skeptic who plans to pull out of the Paris climate accord - indicated he would not make good on the remaining $2 billion of the $3 billion promised by his predecessor.
Bamsey said the fund had not been formally notified it would not receive the full U.S. contribution. But if the money were not available, it would limit what the fund could achieve.
“As far as we are concerned, we are waiting for the next step (from Washington),” he said.
Climate finance is expected to come under the spotlight next year at U.N talks, which established the Green Climate Fund.
Rich countries have promised to raise $100 billion a year in climate finance, from both public and private sources, by 2020 to help developing countries tackle global warming.
Poorer nations are seeking reassurances that target will be met.
The U.N. chief is also holding a climate summit in 2019 where the subject is likely to be high on the agenda.
So far, the Green Climate Fund has agreed to provide about $3.7 billion to finance projects to help developing countries shift to clean energy and adapt to the impacts of climate change, such as more extreme weather and rising seas.
Bamsey said a further $2 billion for projects could be approved at meetings this year, bringing the total close to $6 billion and pushing the start button to replenish the fund.
The fund’s board, which has 24 members balanced between developed and developing countries, has yet to agree on the process and whether to set a target amount.
Bamsey said the fund would likely seek at least $10 billion, and the board could also decide to widen its pool of donors - now limited to governments - to include philanthropists and others that have shown interest in contributing.
“I think we’re in a good position for replenishment,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on the sidelines of a conference on energy access in Lisbon.
“Our projects are getting better and better, and countries want more and more - and so you’ve got a very good opportunity here where funding can be used extremely well to help solve the climate problem.”
Bamsey said he thought the projects being submitted for backing were gradually becoming more in line with the fund’s mandate to be “transformational”.
He cited a recently approved project led by the World Bank to develop financial instruments to improve energy efficiency in Brazilian cities, and a longer-standing initiative managed by the Acumen Fund to build markets for off-grid solar in East Africa by investing in small providers.
He said the Green Climate Fund had become better known around the world, though not in all sectors.
“A lot of the energy community know very little about the Green Climate Fund yet,” he added, saying efforts were being made at the conference to introduce it to renewable energy companies working in Africa and Asia.
Bamsey said his team was focused on helping poorer countries improve their ability to tap into different international climate funds.
The fragmented nature of climate finance is a problem for many, but the funds are working together to present a more coherent picture to developing-world governments, he said.
The aim is to help countries identify the bigger projects needed to meet their national targets to reduce carbon emissions and to become more resilient to climate change effects - and then build those projects, Bamsey said.
“We’re still learning and we’ve got a real long way to go before we’re optimal, but I think we are doing much better,” he said.
Reporting by Megan Rowling @meganrowling; editing by Laurie Goering. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women's rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit news.trust.org/climate