August 27, 2018 / 1:02 AM / a month ago

INTERVIEW-Climate fund snags threaten opportunity to fight warming - Ban Ki-moon

BARCELONA, Aug 27 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - I nsufficient cash is hampering a flagship international fund to help poor nations combat climate change, which is not working as fast and efficiently as the urgency of global warming requires, said former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) was established at U.N. climate talks in 2010 to channel a substantial portion of the $100 billion per year wealthy nations had pledged to mobilise by 2020 for developing-world efforts to curb carbon emissions and weather the impacts of climate change.

Ban told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that decisions by U.S. President Donald Trump to withdraw his country from the 2015 Paris Agreement on global warming, and to walk away from promises on climate finance jeopardised global commitments.

“I am deeply concerned that the GCF - while it has been really trying to work - has not been fully funded,” Ban said in an interview from South Korea, where the fund is also based.

“With the U.S. pullout of this (Paris) climate agreement, we are not sure whether $100 billion by 2020 will be met,” he added.

Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama pledged $3 billion to the GCF, but only $1 billion of that funding has been delivered.

Of a total of more than $10 billion committed to the fund, since 2015 it has allocated about $3.5 billion for projects in 78 countries to curb heat-trapping emissions and adapt to more extreme weather and rising seas.

But the last meeting of its 24-member board in July was blocked by disputes over policies and governance, meaning no new projects were approved.

Ban, who is president of the Global Green Growth Institute, a GCF partner, described that result as “quite unfortunate”.

Pressure is growing, including from the U.N. climate change chief, for the GCF to get back to business before major climate talks in Poland in December, to smooth negotiations on a rule book to implement the Paris Agreement.

Ban said the fund should focus on getting things done.

“It should be more effective; it should be more agile,” he said. “Otherwise if you have to wait many months or years to get the funding, by that time we will miss the opportunity to mitigate and adapt (to climate change).”

MORE CASH IN 2019?

According to the GCF, 31 projects backed by about $1.4 billion of its funding are now being rolled out - from climate information services to reduce disasters in the Pacific island state of Vanuatu, to producing sustainable argan oil in Morocco.

Javier Manzanares, deputy executive director of the fund - whose chief Howard Bamsey resigned abruptly at July’s meeting - described the implementation figures as “stellar”.

He conceded the summer meeting was a “setback”, but said he was “confident that the board will find a way to solve these challenging discussions”.

At its next meeting in October, Manzanares is hoping projects worth up to $1.3 billion will be approved, and about 15 new agencies accredited to lead work in the field.

A process to replenish the fund’s coffers should also be triggered, he said.

“I believe there is a very strong commitment (to) making things happen,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Manzanares underscored the urgency of topping up the fund’s finances given its fast-expanding pipeline of projects compared with available money.

“We are now dealing with a situation of demand that clearly outstrips supply,” he said. “The difference is so huge that there is a true need to start replenishment.”

If all goes well, a pledging meeting for donors could be held late next year, he noted, although it remains unclear whether a target amount will be set.

Ban pointed to a climate summit to be hosted by U.N. chief Antonio Guterres in September 2019 as a key moment for governments to outline clearly how they will reach their wider annual goal of $100 billion.

"Otherwise it will be a huge embarrassment for the developed countries not to be able to have a formula and a strong commitment on this," Ban said. "I am sure that they will work on this matter ... I am urging them." (Reporting by Megan Rowling @meganrowling; editing by Zoe Tabary. 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)

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