Solar panels built by the United Nations Development Programme in Liberia. Photo by: Christopher Herwig / U.N. / CC BY-NC-ND

Recommended Read – DevExplains: Green Climate Funds


Our “Recommended Read” this week is a thoughtful article by Fatima Arkin on Devex Newswire on the climate funds. Arkin explores in particular the knotty issue of how the climate funds are trying to make the distinction between climate change adaptation (which they can fund) and development (which they can’t, because this is the domain of aid agencies using other ‘pots’ of money that donors have set aside). Thus the building of a railway would count as development, while putting the bed of that railway on an embankment to protect against future flooding would count as adaptation. “With limited grant funding available,” Arkin says, “the winners [among applicants] will be those who can identify and secure critical resources for adaptation proposals that big climate funds deem worthy.”

What’s perhaps most noteworthy in the thinking of those quoted in the piece is an assumption that it’s the applicants (often small organisations with little money or capacity) that should have to jump through hoops to make their projects look as if they are adaptation rather than development, and thus make them fundable, when the distinction is really not a valid one. Who these days, after all, should be building or funding non-climate-resilient infrastructure or operations? Shouldn’t the onus, instead, be completely the other way around: on development agencies and climate funds to rationalise their structures and processes to make this distinction obsolete? That sort of “client-first” approach would, of course, mean some seriously fresh thinking and some willingness to “pool sovereignty” over the agendas of individual funds. Without it, however, access to this donor money will continue to be slow, haphazard and mainly destined for larger and less local applicants that have the resources to navigate the complexities of the system.

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