CSO Updates on the 31st Green Climate Fund Board Meeting – Day 1

Prepared by The Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development

DAY 1 – 28 March 2022

Read the full text of CSO interventions for B31 here 

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is holding its 31st Board Meeting (B31) from March 28 to 31. It was originally  announced as an in-person meeting at the GCF Headquarters located in Songdo, South Korea. However, due to the surge of new Covid-19 Omicron variant cases in South Korea, the in-person meeting did not push through and the Board opted for another virtual meeting.

There have been several changes in the composition and leadership of the Board. For B31, Tlou Ramaru, former Board Member (BM) from South Africa, is now the Developing Country Co-Chair while Jean-Christophe Donnilier remains as the Co-Chair for the Developed Country constituency.

The Co-Chair from South Africa led the Opening of the 31st Board Meeting. While several Board seats remain vacant as members of the Latin America and Caribbean Group (GRULAC) have not sent their nominations yet, the co-chair declared that the Board has reached a quorum and it can proceed with the Board Meeting. As of this update, 3 Board seats and 3 Alternate Board seats from GRULAC remain vacant.

The Co-Chair from South Africa also welcomed the active observers (AO) from the Civil Society Organizations, Indigenous People and Local Communities, and from the Private Sector. Erika Lennon and Eileen Mariena Cunninghum, are taking their second term as Active Observers from developed and developing countries, respectively. For the Private Sector, Margaret Splawn and Pablo Fernandez will also remain as the Private Sector AOs for developed and developing countries, respectively.

While the Co-Chair from South Africa was discussing committee memberships of BMs, the BM from Spain raised her hand to make an intervention and delivered a solidarity statement for the people affected by the Ukraine and Crimean wars. She then called Russia’s action as an act of aggression that violates international law and human rights, and disrupts the efforts towards clean energy transition.

After reminding the Board to avoid making interventions unrelated to the agenda items being discussed, the Co-Chair from South Africa proceeded to discuss the committee membership of the Board Members. He noted that once GRULAC BMs are nominated, they will be placed on committees accordingly, as recommended by the developing country constituency. The BM from Albania requested to be part of the Performance and Oversight Committee (POC) of the Executive Director and Head of Independent Units. She also asked for transparency on how the developing country constituency reached a decision on committee membership nominations. The BMs from Sweden supported this request, citing that gender balance is important as all POCs nominated are men.

While the co-chair from South Africa agrees that gender balance should be ensured, he explained that such a request can no longer be granted as the decision for committee membership nominations have already been done within and among constituencies. This prompted BM from Albania to object to the adoption of Committee Membership, forcing the co-chairs to suspend the item for further consultations. It has also been noted in the discussion that the Risk Management Committee (RMC) has yet to be finalized by both constituencies, and that it is still subject to further consultations among Board Members.

The co-chairs then presented the provisional agenda and asked the Board for the Adoption of the B31 Agenda. Many BMs thought the agenda was very light compared to previous Board Meetings, especially because there are a number of policy documents and time-sensitive items that have been deferred by the Board in the past. BM from Sweden emphasized this point and reminded the Board about the need to urgently deal with at least 69 policy items, 3 of which should have been decided in between Board meetings (BBMs), but they all remain unresolved. The three BBM documents that he was referring to are the following:

  1. Revised Terms of Reference (TOR) of the Head of the Independent Evaluation Unit (IEU) – delayed for 1.5 years

  2. The Updated Accreditation Framework – pending since 2018

  3. Board Committee Guidelines

Other BMs agreed and thought the agenda was a bit underwhelming. BM from Bhutan expressed his concern should the Board keep on suspending important policy matters, including those that are very crucial for LDCs, such as the Simplified Approval Process (SAP). Others have raised issues around the circulation of Board documents, which BMs from Pakistan and US noted to be late once again – some of which have been circulated just recently, instead of publishing them 21-days prior to B31. BM from the US also reminded the Secretariat to make sure the observers and Civil Society are receiving the same documents as the Board.

Another issue that came up in the discussion is about the consultations that the co-chairs should have completed before B31. This was mentioned by the BM from Pakistan, who believe that the co-chairs should ensure in advance consensus within their constituencies about what items to table for the upcoming Board Meeting, what should be prioritized, and sort out pending objections with objecting BMs.

BM from Sweden asked the co-chairs how they plan to address all the questions raised, particularly the BBM documents he mentioned, given the very light agenda, and the co-chair from South Africa replied that each will be addressed in different agenda topics throughout the duration of B31 as consultations among Board constituencies are still being done. Initially, BM from Sweden was not satisfied with the answer, forcing him to object to the adoption of the agenda. This prompted the co-chairs to suspend the session several times to give space for consultations. But after a number of attempts to assure the Board that all items will be dealt with at this Board Meeting, BM from Sweden lifted his objection and joined Board consensus to adopt the agenda.

The Board then proceeded with the item about the Decisions Proposed between Board Meetings. The Co-Chair from France enumerated the 8 decisions between the 30th and 31st Board Meetings approved by the Board. There were 3 proposed decisions between Board meetings pending approval, as mentioned earlier by the BM from Sweden. Of these, the revised Terms of Reference for the Head of the Independent Evaluation Unit (IEU) was then approved without objection.

The BM from Sweden then requested clarification on when the Updated Guidelines for the operation of Board committees would be addressed in the meeting, to which the co-chair averred that they are still working through objections raised by BMs on the remaining proposed decisions, and then assured the Board that these will be addressed through the course of B.31. He then decided to defer the agenda item and suspend the session.

As for the Report on the Activities of the GCF Secretariat, GCF Executive Director Yannick Glemarec reported that the Secretariat was able to achieve more than 75% of its key performance indicators (KPIs), most notably, the acceleration of the Readiness Programme. He added that they were lagging behind on Project Preparation Facility (PPF), and at the time of the report, there are 34 PPFs still ongoing, the bulk of which were for direct access entity (DAE) programming, while the PPF budget was already 72% utilized.

Since the adoption of the Updated Strategic Plan (USP 2020-2023), programming of the Fund reached record volume of USD 10 billion in 2021, observing and utilizing almost all available commitment authority. The Executive Director added that the year 2021 was also the first year that the GCF programming advanced more in alignment with the goals and targets under the USP and that the GCF saw increases in the share of DAE programming and adaptation programming. The Integrated Results Management Framework (IRMF) has also strengthened its results management and reporting in 2021, and Yannick Glemarec said this will be used in more programmes in 2022. This is in line with the Secretariat’s efforts to streamline, automate, and digitize processes for better efficiency. He added that around 80% of processes codified within the Fund have been automated, and the Secretariat hopes to finish these automation efforts within 2022. Also, 50 new staff positions have been allocated and filled since the last Report of the Secretariat, and this is an effort to help fill the workforce gaps within the Fund and to avoid burnout for the organization.

The GCF Executive Director also outlined several action areas for years 2022 and 2023:

  1. Ensuring portfolio balance and managing trade-offs between programming goals: The Secretariat warns that the Fund only has USD 3.4 billion available for disbursement in 2022-2023 and a key action would be to secure more commitments in order to achieve the Fund’s programming goals.
  2. Translating readiness, country programming, and national adaptation plans (NAPs) investments into the pipeline: The Secretariat will focus on providing guidance for full country investment planning in country programs and NAPs. This will also include pushing the more than 100 Concept Notes in file to Full Proposals.

  3. Managing a growing accredited entities (AEs) portfolio and reaccreditation pipeline: Historically, the Board is only able to approve around 22 AEs per year. There are still around 150 AEs waiting for accreditation and re-accreditation.

  4. Consolidating risk management systems: The Secretariat aims to mainstream a culture of risk management within the organization, and has worked with partners to ensure.

  5. Shift from process/ policy codification to consistency of implementation: The Secretariat reminded the Board that early programmes of the Fund did not include an ‘Implementation’ guidance, so there is work needed to streamline the activities.

  1. Prepare for the GCF second replenishment

In the Report, the GCF Executive Director also mentioned that the GCF’s expected commitment authority for 2022 is USD 2,340 million, and it could be exhausted fully based on the following breakdown:

USD 1,775 million for Funding Proposals (FPs)

USD 185 million for Readiness & PPF

USD 380 million for Accreditation fees and administrative expenses

The Secretariat also reported that they have been ensuring information access and clarity of documentation of policies and programmes on the Fund website and ended the presentation with a reiteration of the Secretariat’s commitment to efficiency, transparency, and accountability.

While many were happy with the efforts done by the GCF Secretariat in the past year, several concerns were still raised by the Board Members. BM from Korea hopes to see improvement in the streamlined Funding Proposal (FP) approval process after noting that only 4 out of a target of 6-11 FPs were approved in 2021. She also added that FP approval from DAEs remain low with 9 out of 13 targeted.

BM from Norway reiterated his disappointment in the lack of policy discussions for this Board Meeting. Other developed country BMs share the same concern especially on matters related to reaccreditation, speed of approval, and on policy leadership. BM from Japan raised another concern about the increasing burden that the Secretariat carries related to the accreditation process and approval. He urged the Board to decide about the AEs that have not implemented anything to be permitted from reaccreditation. He also reminded the Board to adopt the Private Sector Strategy so the Fund may further engage with the private sector.

Given these, BM from Norway urged the Board to take a lead on the policy front with support from the Secretariat.

BM from Germany on the other hand, reminded the Board of the importance of communicating the progress of the Fund to the public, highlighted the increase in private sector engagements done by the GCF in the past year, and urged the GCF to pursue further engagement with national financial stakeholders. This point was reiterated by BMs from Canada and Switzerland and urged the GCF to achieve faster and more efficient partnership with the private sector.

Other BMs from developing countries expressed different concerns, particularly on the slow FP approval processes, and the tedious processes around re-accreditation. BM from Ghana requested for clarification on how the Secretariat plans to increase efficiency on approvals, while BM from Bhutan emphasized issues of delay under the SAPs, and the repeated disconnect between the report and the realities of least developed countries (LDCs). This point was agreed upon by BM from the Netherlands, and urged the Secretariat to strengthen LDC consultations and work streamlining implementation and monitoring of FPs.

The co-chair then called Erika Lennon, the Active Observer of Developed Country CSOs for the CSO intervention. Erika raised the lack of transparency, communication and consultations with the CSO network, and called the Secretariat for the seemingly overwhelmingly positive reception to GCF’s COP26 engagement given that the GCF observer network was not informed or engaged in GCF pavilion activities in any meaningful way prior to COP.

The GCF Executive Director responded to the issues  raised and clarified that: DAE targets were achieved; that SAP has been a long-standing problem by 3 Board Meetings;  that there is a need to dramatically simplify the SAP process; that Eastern and Central Europe is one of the areas where  funding balance needs improvement; that KPI instruments can be further optimized for ease of interpretation; that private sector strategy is being developed and is for further discussion; that the strategy prioritizes market creation for climate projects and not simply co-financing; that optimizing the re-accreditation process is crucial in having more program approvals; that a significant number of projects for approval this 2022 are PPFs; that 29% of the Fund is allocated for LDCs but that the Secretariat will engage on conversations on this moving forward; that the Secretariat will work with the Board to increase the number of policy items in the Board’s agenda.

He added that the Secretariat is nearing the completion of its optimization efforts, and there needs to be dramatic changes in the SAP and overall operations to propel the Fund’s performance forward. He also said that part of this optimization effort will be to address concerns on transparency, and communication of Fund activities and outcomes.

The Co-Chair from South Africa then thanked the GCF Secretariat for all its efforts and asked the Board to note the Report before it closed the item.

The Board also noted other reports, but with less comments and questions. These are the Reports from Board committees, panels and groups and the Report of the 30th Meeting of the Board.

Day 1 ended 30 minutes past the scheduled time. You can catch the recordings and live stream of the proceedings of the Board at: https://www.greenclimate.fund/boardroom/meeting/b30#videos