Looking at the Green Climate Fund (GCF) in relation to the Solomon Islands

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Dear Editor,

I have heard a good deal about the Green Climate Fund (GCF) but kept wondering how access to the GCF could be beneficial to the Solomon Islands as it faces an increasing threat from climate change.

I decided to do a little research and began by turning to an article in the Guardian newspaper published on 15 February 2016.  This is what I discovered (quote).

When the Green Climate Fund (GCF) was announced at COP16 in 2010, the intention was to give small, developing countries direct access to finance to protect themselves from climate change. Yet many of the smallest and most at-risk countries in the world now claim that they do not have the means to access these funds directly.

“It’s a paradox,” said Anote Tong, the president of Kiribati “We need [the funds] the most but we don’t have the capacity to get it because we’re not accredited.” Tong added that the accreditation process involves so much bureaucracy it is a significant challenge for low-resourced governments.

“Later, when told of Tong’s words by the Guardian, representatives of the governments of Tonga, the Comoros and Grenada all said they shared his concerns.

The GCF which became operational in 2015 is funded by developed countries and aims to assist developing countries with climate change mitigation and adaptation projects, such as early-warning systems for climate-related disasters.

“For a country to directly access GCF finance, it must first nominate a “national designated authority” – usually an existing government department like the finance or environment ministry – which then nominates an institution for accreditation.

“That institution is reviewed by the GCF’s accreditation panel, self-described as independent and technical.

“The difficulty lies in demonstrating that these institutions comply with the GCF’s fiduciary and gender policy standards, and that they can apply the relevant environmental and social safeguards.

“Institutions must prove they have: a track record of delivering mitigation and adaptation projects, a fully functional independent audit committee with plans for the past three years, various procurement committees, relevant guidelines and data on complaints handled in the past two years, examples of conflicts of interest in the past two years and how they were dealt with – and so on.”

Having digested this background information I began to query the position in the Solomon Islands and whether accreditation has been achieved so far, given the need for pre-requisite fiduciary, gender policy guidelines and the lingering perception of corruption.  Perhaps an answer will be forthcoming after this article is published locally.

Obtaining accreditation can be helped along.  The World Resources Institute is apparently working on climate-finance readiness in Kenya, the Philippines and Fiji – funded by the German government.

The GCF also has a special US$30m “readiness programme” to support developing countries’ institutions through the accreditation process.

According to the Guardian, “As of December 2015, 95 countries had expressed an interest in support from this programme and 33 have had their requests approved. The maximum a country can receive is $300,000.”

Because of frustrations with the accreditation process and the long delays some countries are opting for the alternative route of direct access – through multilateral institutions that have the means to become accredited quickly. For example, the GCF recently gave a $31m grant for a new river water intake station, waste water treatment plant and sewer coverage in Fiji. The Fijian government was only able to access the grant through a partnership with the ADB one of several international banks to have become accredited already.

The final text of the Paris agreement urged institutions like the GCF “to support country-driven strategies through simplified and efficient application and approval procedures”.

Despite this pressure, simplification is far from certain, according to Action Aid

As  I end this article, I am hopeful that some answer will be forthcoming as to whether the Solomon Islands has been granted accreditation status to access the GCF and, if so, what has been done with the $300,000 that was receiveable, and how were the gender issues, corruption perceptions and fiduciary requirements overcome.?

Yours sincerely

Frank Short