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[PARIS] Small island nations are frustrated over difficulties in accessing funds for technology and climate change adaptation from the Green Climate Fund (GCF), SciDev.Net can reveal.

Several heads of state from the Pacific small island developing states (SIDS) have said their attempts to get money from the UN fund were foiled by what they describe as red tape and requests for scientific information the states cannot provide.

“We are facing the situation where we need the funds more than anybody else, yet we’re not getting them.”

Anote Tong, president of Kiribati

Applicants to the fund need to be accredited before they can receive money for mitigation and adaptation projects, for example technology transfer to reduce emissions and build flood defences. SIDS have to apply for funds through the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), an international agency in Samoa that has GCF accreditation, or turn to a bank, such as the Asian Development Bank.

“We have to go through other agencies and that [means] we are held ransom to their desires and conveniences,” Anote Tong, the president of Kiribati, told SciDev.Net on the sidelines of the COP 21 climate conference in Paris, France, last week. “We are facing the situation where we need the funds more than anybody else, yet we’re not getting them.”

The need for extensive documentation and for tracking of national performance on various socioeconomic indicators is an additional hurdle for accreditation.

Simon Wilson, a monitoring and evaluation officer at SPREP, explains that accreditation requires presenting a very detailed story about the applicant and its intentions. “Many SIDS will struggle as they will not have the necessary policies, processes and track record required.”

Once accreditation is complete, the GCF demands scientific proof for each project that the funds applied for are directly related to the harmful effects of climate change on the country. But this is difficult for small states who lack the research infrastructure to provide such information. Enele Sopoaga, the prime minister of Tuvalu, experienced these problems first-hand when he wanted to apply for funds to build more classrooms in the island nation to improve education and enable his citizens to make informed decisions about climate change. He said that education was one of the most important ways of enhancing Tuvalu’s climate resilience, one of the GCF’s so-called strategic impact areas.

But so far Sopoaga has been unable to get accreditation for the fund, meaning his application for money has also fallen through. He is concerned that the fund’s focus on detailed adaptation and mitigation plans means small countries would have to hire experts to help them draw up their application.

“Most of the money will go to consultancies, and nothing to sea walls and food crops and all that,” Sopoaga said.

The GCF did not respond to repeated requests for comment. The fund, which was established in 2010 as part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and is meant to pay out US$100 billion a year by 2020 to help vulnerable countries adapt to global warming.

Others involved in the issue said it would help if finance ministries from the SIDS got more actively involved with the GCF to ensure they improve their capacity to access the funds.

“Efforts need to happen on both sides,” said Matthew McKinnon, an advisor at international partnership the Climate Vulnerable Forum, which includes the SIDS.

But for the SIDS governments — besieged by climate-related problems such as flooding, loss of drinking water and poor harvests — the duty to make the fund accessible lies with the UN.

“They should be coming out rather than expecting people to beg and say all the nice things that need to be said in order to access the fund,” said Tong.