CSO Updates on the 32nd Green Climate Fund Board Meeting – Day 1

by Claire Miranda of APMDD – The Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development

Check the CSO Observer Network Interventions here: B32 CSO Interventions

The 32nd GCF Board Meeting is happening, in a face to face format, from 16 to 19 May 2022 at Antigua and Barbuda. The co-chair from France opened B32 and welcomed all participants present in the board room. He then extended the warm appreciation to the government of Antigua and Barbuda for hosting B32 despite the very short notice, and to the GCF Secretariat for arranging all travel and accommodation concerns around B32.

The co-chair also welcomed the new members of the Board and recognized other participants who are unable to come to Antigua and Barbuda due to travel challenges and limitations of venue capacity. Since B31 Board Members from the Latin America and Caribbean Group (GRULAC) remain unrepresented in the GCF.

This was immediately followed by the Adoption of the Agenda, chaired by the co-chair from South Africa. Contrary to previous virtual Board Meetings where BMs would take so much time agreeing on items to be included in the provisional agenda, the B32 Provisional Agenda was quickly adopted by the Board.

The first agenda item for B32 was the Consideration of Funding Proposals (FPs). The Co-Chair from South Africa requested the GCF Secretariat to provide an overview of the projects that are up for the Board’s consideration, as well as the status of the GCF portfolio in terms of its approved projects.

Deputy Executive Director Henry Gonzales presented to the Board the status of the GCF portfolio in terms of projects. Below are key details of the presentation:

  • Total GCF funding requested by the batch of funding proposals (FPs) for B32 amounts to USD 325.2 Million. Of these, 80% is classified under mitigation and the remaining 20% is for adaptation.

  • Of the total amount requested, 23% come from DAEs while 77% from IAEs.

  • In terms of financial instruments, the breakdown of B32 FPs are 62% in Equity, 26% in grants, 3% in guarantee, and 9% in loans.

  • The Asia-Pacific region will receive most of the GCF funding, at 73% of the total amount requested.

  • If all of the FPs tabled at B32 are approved, 62% of the entire GCF portfolio will compose mitigation projects while 38% will compose adaptation projects.

  • If all of the FPs tabled at B32 are approved, the GCF portfolio in terms of financial instruments will be 43% for loans, 41% for grants, 9% for equity, 5% for results-based payments, and 2% for guarantees.

BMs from developing countries raised alarm on the further imbalance of the mitigation and adaptation portfolio, as well as on the geographic imbalance where SIDS and LDCs continue to be less funded than other developing countries.

The BM from Antigua and Barbuda then asked the GCF Secretariat for an explanation about the low number of FPs being considered in previous BMs and at B32. The GCF Secretariat responded by saying that the commitment authority is low and that they are currently managing the projects for Board consideration to stay within the limit of the current available funds. The issue about the low commitment authority has also been raised by CSOs in the past and at B31, the GCF Executive Director assured the Board that contributor countries will deliver their pledges in a timely manner and that there is no need to withhold FPs for Board consideration. Contrary to this B31 statement, the Deputy Executive Director confirmed that the low commitment authority is a major consideration for the low number of projects submitted to the Board.

CSO Active Observer from developed countries, Erika Lennon delivered an intervention focusing on the huge gap between mitigation and adaptation FPs, and FPs proposed by International Access Entities (IAEs) versus those from Direct Access Entities (DAEs), that are tabled at this Board Meeting. The CSOs emphasized that the 50:50 adaptation-mitigation balance target of the GCF remains unresolved, and the Fund continues to favor IAEs that are receiving the biggest share of GCF funding, over DAEs. Also part of the CSO Intervention was how the B32 venue is majorly inaccessible to observers. Erika mentioned the fact that the GCF Board and Secretariat denied participation of observers other than active observers, despite the appeal sent by the CSO Observer requesting for a more inclusive B32 and B33.

The co-chair then proceeded to deliberate on each of the FPs. Below is the summary of the discussions:

FP Information:

Discussion

Status

SAP024: Pakistan Distributed Solar Power (PDSP)

Mitigation

Country: Pakistan

AE: JS Bank

Total Financing: USD 54 Million

GCF Financing: USD 10 Million (USD 9 Million in guarantees, USD 1 Million in grants)

Co-Financing: USD 44 Million

BMs from developed countries reiterated that the entire solar photovoltaics (PV) supply chain should not have been fulfilled with child/forced labor. They pointed out that this is not a matter of new GCF policies, but a mere implementation of the ESS and other existing GCF policies. They requested the  Secretariat and AE to provide stringent measures that will ensure no child/forced labor will be employed towards the fulfillment of the FP.

As for the CSO Intervention delivered by Eileen Cunningham, the Active Observer from developing country CSOs, the CSOs raised that farmer and peasant groups, as well as grassroots movements in Pakistan still finds the 6% interest difficult despite being tagged as “concessional” given prevailing credit prices in Pakistan. In line with this, the CSOs urged the Board to put conditions that will compel the AE to commit to lower interest rates.

APPROVED

FP186: India E-Mobility Financing Program

Mitigation

Country: India

AE: Macquarie Alternative Assets Management Limited (MAAML)

Total Financing: USD 1.497 Billion

GCF Financing: USD 200 Million (junior equity)

Co-Financing: USD 1.297 Billion (205 Million in senior equity, 1.092 Billion in debt financing)

The BM from France opposed the approval of the project since the AE, which is the world’s largest asset management firm, is not included in the initial pooling of resources. He questioned the need for the GCF to grant a big amount when the AE itself cannot pool its own money in the initial investment. After further deliberations, the BM from France was not convinced with the arguments presented by the AE. This prompted the co-chair to suspend the approval of the FP and asked for further consultations to resolve the opposition.

The Active Observer from developed country CSOs, Erika Lennon delivered an intervention citing the difficulty of evaluating the impact potential of this FP, since the sub-projects were not disclosed in the proposal. The CSOs noted the need for greater and proactive transparency measures given that the FP is built on a lot of assumptions. The CSOs argued that this FP should only be approved if conditions to safeguard the peoples’ rights and diligent use of GCF resources are ensured in the FP.

The Active Observer of the Private Sector Organizations, Karl Upston-Hooper, echoed the CSO intervention about transparency.

DEFERRED

FP184: Vanuatu Community-based Climate Resilience Project (VCCRP)

Adaptation

Country: Vanuatu

AE: Save the Children Australia

Total Financing: USD 32.65 Million

GCF Financing: USD 26.18 Million (grant)

Co-Financing: USD 6.47 million

There were no comments for this project, except for the CSO Intervention delivered by Erika Lennon, expressing support for the approval of FP184 based on its design and how it presented the realities and needs of the countries, with human rights principles and locally-led adaptation at its core.

APPROVED

FP103: Promotion of Climate-Friendly Cooking in Kenya and Senegal (Tranche 2, Tranche 1 approved from B22)

Mitigation

Country: Kenya, Senegal

AE: Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH

Total Financing: EUR 57.17 Million

GCF Financing: EUR 21.851 Million (Tranche 2) of EUR 32.36 Million (GCF Total)

Co-Financing: EUR 16.55 Million

Similarly, only the CSO intervention was delivered during the presentation of this FP. Developed Country CSO AO Erika Lennon, raised the CSO concerns regarding the lack of updates in the logic framework of the FP in the context of the project’s progress and the COVID-19 pandemic, and suggested that gender sensitivity workshops be delivered to all personnel that will be part of the FP’s implementation.

APPROVED

FP185: Climate Change: The New Evolutionary Challenge for the Galapagos

Cross-Cutting

Country: Ecuador

AE: Corporació Andina de Formento (CAF)

Total Financing: USD 117.59 Million

GCF Financing: USD 65.27 Million in total [USD 34.73 Million (grant); USD 30.54 Million (loan)]

Co-Financing: USD 52.32 Million

Since solar PVs are also a component of this FP, BMs from developed countries reiterated their earlier point about child/forced labor in the solar photovoltaics (PV) supply chain and requested similar measures from the secretariat and the AE as with SAP024.

Recognizing that Ecuador is a major exporter of fossil fuels, the BM from Switzerland requested to review the justification for the grant component of the project based on a concessionality policy by the GCF. The said policy is pending for Board discussion and according to him, it is for this reason that the Board should urgently decide on matters related to concessionality.

In the CSO Intervention delivered by Eileen Cunningham of developing country CSOs, it has been pointed out that the project risk category for this FP should have been Category A and not Category B since the FP poses major environmental and social risks among residents of the Galapagos Island. CSOs also reiterated the call to include all personnel involved in gender-related training.

APPROVED

The Board proceeded to discuss the Consideration of Accreditation Proposals. For this Board Meeting, the Board is asked to take note of the progress of accreditation in the GCF and approve the applications for re-accreditation of the Korean Development Bank (KDB) and Conservation International (CI). Both are seeking re-accreditation without changes from their initial accreditation status.

The Secretariat then presented the overview of the GCF Accreditation Portfolio with the following key information:

–   As of April 30, a total of 113 entities have been approved for accreditation. Of these, 77 have completed their Accreditation Master Agreements (AMAs) and can fully engage with the GCF

–   The Secretariat is prioritizing re-accreditation since the majority of the AEs are due for re-accreditation. For this year, approximately 20 AEs will be submitting their applications for re-accreditation.

–   A total of 138 entity applicants are in the GCF pipeline, with the majority applying as Direct Access Entities (DAEs) and are from the Private Sector.

–   More modules are being developed by the Secretariat under the Digital Accreditation Platform (DAP) that will be launched this year. This is in addition to the continued guidance provided by the Secretariat to AEs seeking re-accreditation and to NDAs in developing accreditation approaches for potential DAEs in their respective countries.

This presentation was followed by remarks from the Accreditation Panel to confirm their recommendations that KDB and CI be re-accredited without any conditions. The co-chair from France then proceeded with the deliberations for each of the re-accreditation applicants, but due to limited time, only the RAPL044 Korean Development Bank (KDB) was presented.

While Board Members all agree to approve the re-accreditation application of the KDB, the developing and developed country constituencies had opposing views with regards to the additional language that the BM from Switzerland proposed. Many of the developed country BMs were impressed with the KDB’s portfolio-shift towards a low-emissions development pathway, as well as its declaration of aligning its portfolio with the Paris Agreement. But BM from Switzerland proposed to add an additional text to the Board decision to note “KDBs effort to reach the 2050 carbon neutrality goal including through its climate finance framework” and underline such “relevance for the KDB’s re-accreditation at the GCF.” He emphasized that this is similar to the Board decisions on the accreditation of Sumitomo Mistui Banking Corporation (SMBC) and the re-accreditation of the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA), and that there should not be a problem adding such language.

BMs from Germany, Sweden, Luxembourg and the US all agree the additional language is important to ensure the re-accredited entity continues with their pledged commitment towards green transition, especially with an entity known for its carbon-intensive portfolio. BM from Germany also noted that the KDB must publicize its efforts and strategies to reach its net-zero goal, while BM from Sweden commended KDB for its commitment to end financial support to new coal fired power plants. BM from Spain added that KDB’s move to enhance private sector engagement should also be commended.

Developing country BMs agree that KDB should remain a GCF partner, but they unanimously oppose and consider the additional text proposed as an unacceptable condition for re-accreditation. BM from Bhutan believed adding such conditions will only further burden the Direct Access Entities (DAE) from developing countries. He also reminded the Board that they cannot add references to net-zero or carbon neutrality when the GCF still has no policy developed on these concepts.

While the Board lauded KDB with their portfolio-shift, BM from Albania urged the Board to recognize the points raised by the CSO Observer Network. A letter signed by more than 100 CSOs was sent to the Board during the start of B32 urging them to reconsider the application of KDB. The said letter raised grave environmental and climate risks, voiced by communities affected by KDB fossil fuel projects. It also exposed the KDB for continuing to support fossil fuel projects and highlighted KDB’s underperformance and zero climate projects since 2017 when it got accredited to the GCF. BM from Albania asked the Board to take the points raised by the CSOs seriously and respond to the said letter, since the CSOs are considered partners in GCF operations and programmes.

The point raised by the BM from Albania about considering CSOs as partners was not acknowledged by the co-chair. This also explains why our CSO Intervention that was supposed to be delivered by Eileen Cunningham, was not permitted. After the GCF Secretariat reminded the co-chair from France that our Active Observer’s flag was up and that Eileen was asking for the floor to deliver our intervention, the co-chair proceeded to suspend the decision for Accreditation Proposals. He argued that since the Board did not arrive at a decision yet, the CSO intervention can be heard at a later time.

Another agenda item discussed in Day 1 of B32 is the Report on the activities of the Secretariat. The GCF Executive Director presented a report highlighting the progress made by the Secretariat especially with the process optimization in the past few years and the exhaustive guidance provided to the AEs in order to improve the quality of proposals submitted to the GCF and the faster disbursement of funds.

He cited challenges with regards to fund mobilization and program development as funds needed for planned activities and projects often exceed the actual fund commitment. He also added that USD currency fluctuations could potentially be of great risk for 2022, and mentioned that the Risk Management and Budget committees have been preparing to submit a hedging proposal to the Board in the second half of 2022.

The Executive Director also added that the status of human resource within the secretariat is challenging, but he is optimistic about the 90% talent fill ratio of the GCF staffing in 2022. Lack of vertical mobility opportunities and salary scale improvement are recurring issues in the secretariat. At the moment, the Secretariat is focused on hiring more staff, by increasing the talent pool and expediting the hiring process with 7-8 hires per month.

The BM from Norway noted the update and asked the GCF Executive Director to clarify the common reasons for resignation of the GCF staff. BM from Sweden also asked for updates about the salary scale proposal that was supposed to be presented at B31. The Executive Director responded and shared that the natural GCF turnover rate they determined in 2019 was 10-20%; they anticipate that in 2022 the rates will decline to 15-18%. Common reasons for leaving the GCF are increased workload, family needs including education for children and other opportunities. As for the salary scale proposal of the Secretariat, the Executive Director confirmed that the item was delayed alongside the constitution of the Board Budget committee and will be proposed later in 2022.

Other BMs raised concerns regarding delays in fund disbursement. The Alternate BM from Kenya cited that the DAE accreditation targets for the 1st two quarters of 2022 have not been met and added that the Board should address this matter. She was also concerned about the slow progress and implementation of adaptation projects, and asked the Secretariat to present a more comprehensive report of adaptation projects across all work plan areas. As a response, the Executive Director explained that in grant equivalent terms, the current GCF portfolio reports 49% adaptation. While this remains below the 50:50 target, he added that more adaptation projects are in the pipeline and are scheduled to be tabled to future BMs.

The BM from Spain expressed concerns about the foreign exchange risks that the Executive Director mentioned and requested the Board to add the Secretariat’s hedging proposal as a priority item in their decisions.

In the CSO Intervention, delivered by the Active Observer from developing countries Eileen Cunningham, the CSOs welcomed the new secretariat Task Force that will ensure increased quality and quantity of funding proposals submitted to the GCF. However, CSOs urged the GCF to make sure meaningful participation and consultation be done among observers, CSOs, indigenous peoples and local communities.

This discussion was then followed by the Policy Consultations on the Simplified Approval Process (SAP) Update. It can be recalled that the SAP Update has been presented to the Board last B31 as an information document and presented the progress of the Secretariat towards achieving an acceptable draft for the Board. The Co-Chairs, then, committed to conduct further consultations before B32 as a way forward.

The Co-Chair from France presented to the Board the progress on 10 outstanding issues on the SAP Update, where 7 out of the 10 outstanding issues have been resolved. The 3 remaining issues are risk categories to determine which projects can be funded under the SAP, the simplification of the SAP process to include SAP approvals between Board Meetings (BBM), and the maximum amount of funding for SAP projects.

BMs from developing countries have indicated the views of their respective constituencies. The BM from Bhutan, on behalf of the LDCs, expressed concerns on the complexity and duration needed for a SAP to be approved by the Board. He also suggested maximizing the Project Preparation Facility for SAP proposals to ensure coherence and coordination towards making the SAP truly simplified.

The BM from Antigua and Barbuda, on behalf of SIDS, echoed the need for a faster and simplified process given the extreme and urgent vulnerabilities of the SIDS to the climate crisis. She also raised concerns related to the list of approved activities under the SAP as well as on the key performance indices (KPIs), and then urged the Board to stop adding new requirements under the proposed SAP Update. She also proposed that the signing of SAP Funding Activity Agreement (FAA) be done together with the SAP approval to prevent further delay.

BMs from developed countries believe the SAP Update must revise the climate rationale to resolve major issues such as the proposal process itself, the requirements needed to be approved, and the coverage of allowed activities under the SAP. They also stressed the need for transparency and accountability while making the SAP faster and further simplified.

The CSO Intervention delivered by Erika Lennon, the Active Observer of developed country CSOs, cited several contentious issues related to this item. On the SAP’s amount limit, the CSOs oppose the proposal of increasing the funding amount except to specific circumstances where it is necessary. CSOs argue that an increase in the amount limit may displace projects with smaller funding needs.

The CSOs also proposed to limit the risk categories of SAP projects under Category C given that Category B projects are riskier and thus require more documentation and requirements in the long run. The CSOs also expressed their concerns against the approval of SAPs through BBM decisions where CSO participation is even smaller.

Noting all the points raised for this agenda item, the co-chair decided to defer the decision to a later date and encourage BMs to conduct consultations.

The Board then proceeded to Review of the initial private sector facility modalities and the private sector strategy. Chaired by the co-chair from South Africa, he noted that after the publication and circulation of the document containing the initial review on private sector facility modalities and strategy, the Board held a consultation that led to a list of issues needing further deliberation. These are:

  1. Risk appetite of the Fund, including financial return of the private sector project

  2. Link with accreditation strategy, including local private sector involvement

  3. Prioritization of projects, including for MSME’s

  4. Country-ownership of private sector project

  5. Financial instruments

  6. Lending

  7. Private sector advisory group

  8. Readiness

  9. Private sector request for proposals (RFPs) and simplification.

The BM from Kenya raised several points starting with failure of the private sector strategy delineated in the documents to address the IEU recommendations on the Fund’s approach to the private sector. She furthered that no actions are taken to the fact that most of the accredited private sector entities are large and medium sized (82%), and that the majority are international entities. She noted that the decision text must be strengthened to reflect the need to prioritize domestic private sector actors and to limit international private sector entities. She also underscored that a strong focus on MSME participation in GCF activities is important especially among LDCs, SIDS, and other African states, and further recommended to add the following in the decision text:

  • confirmation that GCF is high-risk fund that aims to catalyze investment in adaptation and mitigation projects

  • confirmation that private sector portfolio will support higher-risk projects that involve technologies and business models that are not necessarily commercially viable even if that means funding projects primarily through grants of highly concessional terms that are potentially loss-making

  • confirmation of the Board’s agreement to increase GCF risk appetite to experiment w/ financial instruments and business models that can help advance just transition

  • more coherent approach on private sector accreditation; stronger operational language to mandate secretariat to ensure private sector projects are country-owned and that access to GCF is informed by a country-driven approach.

The BM from Kenya also asserted that the level of consultation with developing country BMs on this particular document was unsatisfactory, to which the BM from the US disagreed and argued that the consultations done were in accordance with the past practices of the Board.

BMs from developed countries such as Norway, Sweden, UK, USA, and Canada, disagreed with the points raised and expressed that the current private sector strategy is headed in the right direction. They agree that mobilizing private sector capital is challenging, especially from developed countries, and that the right strategy is to provide more incentives for the private sector, particularly by ensuring conducive investment environments, de-risking, and strengthening of domestic and regional financial institutions. In other words, the strategy must prioritize reducing risks and enhancing returns for the private sector. They also encouraged further acceleration of business models and financial instruments that could spur private sector involvement and innovation, such as guarantees, equities, and insurance policies.

Expectedly, the Active Observer from the Private Sector in their intervention, agreed with these points and then further urged the Board to review its definition of Private Sector entities.

The BMs from US and Norway were also very vocal about leveraging public funds, resources, and machinery to catalyze private sector finance. They argued that the GCF must assist and engage with governments to allow lower tariffs and other taxation reforms. Other developed country BMs pushed for more private sector projects in adaptation and resilience, and advocated for prioritizing the mobilization of domestic private sectors for GCF actions.

While developed country BMs promote the various financial instruments to encourage private sector investments, the developing country BMs on the other hand, raised concerns over some of these instruments.  The BM from Bhutan, argued that these instruments are being forwarded to spur private sector investment, particularly equities and insurance policies. He believed such a move may create more barriers for developing countries, especially LDCs. The CSO intervention delivered by Erika Lennon, the Active Observer from developed country CSOs echoed this point and added that the lack of transparency and accountability surrounding such instruments, compounded by complex financial arrangements, often pass through secrecy jurisdictions. CSOs also proposed to revise the Private Sector Strategy in order to move away from its disproportionate emphasis on ‘leverage ratios’ and ‘co-financing’ through blended finance approaches. The CSO intervention also underscored how the GCF should be assessing projects, particularly in the private sector, according to its “transformational potential – i.e. developing local markets and ensuring replicability – as opposed to large-scale programs run almost exclusively through IAEs.

Day 1 of B32 ended at 5:30PM in Antigua and Barbuda.

You can watch the live webcast and proceedings of B32 from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM in Antigua and Barbuda here: https://www.greenclimate.fund/boardroom/meeting/b32#videos

 

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