By Isabella Ann Mendoza and Chien-Huan Li
A CALL for urgent climate action has again been raised by the scientific community, based on the latest data contained in the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius. Among other things, the report forecasts severe effects on coastal communities due to rising sea levels and increasing temperatures. The findings are, undeniably, reflected in real life in our own country. We’ve seen it in our work in Eastern Samar and Cebu through stories from fisherfolk and reports from local officials over lower fish catch, loss of coastlines and multiple islands of dead corals.
We were in Coron, Palawan recently to meet with Cordaid, our partner in assisting local governments create responsive climate change action plans. Though their eagerness towards participating in the process is undeniable, planning for further climate action comes with a fundamental dilemma: how will localities see initiatives through to fruition, and where will the funds come from?
The United Nation has rightly prioritized climate finance. Its Green Climate Fund (GCF), operationalized in 2014, is the biggest international climate fund. The fund’s mandate is to mobilize resources from developed countries to finance adaptation and mitigation initiatives in developing countries. Thus far, it has financed over 70 projects from around the world that today are in various stages of implementation.
Four years later, we face today the predicament of the GCF’s first replenishment. Recent reports have also detailed various challenges the GCF board is currently facing, from diminishing resources, the lack of follow through from international commitments, changes in governing structure and deadlocks in the GCF governing board’s decision-making process.
According to the World Resources Institute (WRI), the three key challenges to improving the governance of the GCF are improving the predictability of financial resources, strengthening the effectiveness of the board, and strengthening the board’s role as a representative body. But the GCF board appears responsive. As of October 2018, they approved 19 new proposals from developing countries and 16 new partner institutions and accredited entities. They have likewise taken steps forward in preparation of the fund’s replenishment in 2019.
These developments are of particular interest for the Philippines.
ICSC has been active as an NGO observer at GCF board meetings and in support of accreditation bids from local agencies seeking to engage or access the fund. One highlight from the recent meeting was the approval of LANDBANK as the first GCF-accredited national entity of the Philippines. ICSC worked hard and early with WRI to help steer LANDBANK officials to put together complex accreditation requirements for the fund board’s consideration. Hopefully, more Philippine entities will get the green light.
The People’s Survival Fund (PSF) is similar to the GCF in its mandate to finance the climate adaptation action plans of local governments. Armed with an annual P1 billion allocation, the PSF is clearly not enough to cover the plethora of programs and initiatives that need to be undertaken throughout the country, but it’s a good start even in the face of considerable challenges.
Some have called into question the effectiveness of the fund due to the slow turnover rate. The replenishment of the PSF, for instance, has been unprogrammed due to the perceived under-utilization of the fund over the last three years. These issues can be attributed largely to the lack of capacity and resources to collect data and present the technical documentation and science-based evidence necessary to meet application requirements.
At present, there is little news in circulation about the status of the PSF. But as of this writing, its board has approved six projects, with six more in the pipeline awaiting approval.
Having been involved in crafting and passing the PSF into law, from advocacy to actual implementation, ICSC has had the opportunity to work with other fund board members in order to guide the efforts of local government recipients, such as Del Carmen, Siargao Island, Surigao Del Norte and Lanuza, Surigao Del Sur. As civil society representative to the fund board, ICSC has gone to great lengths, and will continue to do so, to keep communication lines between the board and potential proponents as dynamic and transparent as possible to facilitate easier local access to the PSF.
The growing international clamor for structure and discipline in climate finance show that the process of executing an efficient and effective financing system for climate change adaptation is a difficult yet evolving process. Challenges in managing climate funds are many but some are constant, such as the need for predictable and transparent governance.
Communities across the Philippines are already reeling from the impacts of climate change as world temperatures inch towards the Paris Agreement-prescribed 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold. Our leaders need to stay ahead of the learning curve and innovate approaches early.
Isabella Ann Mendoza is a climate policy analyst and Chien-Huan Li is a climate policy intern of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, an international climate and energy policy group.