What happened to the hope of a green climate fund?

by Nathan Thanki

In our pre-COP speculations, everyone thought that the GCF would be one of the key issues and (possibly) outcomes of Durban. The promise–of a new, large, additional, transparent fund that would be driven by the countries that received the money and guaranteed adaptation funding–was great, a light at the end of the dark tunnel through which parts of the regime, like the continuation of Kyoto, might not make it. When the TC report came up on the COP plenary agenda, ears all over the ICC picked up. And yet since then there has been a resounding silence. So what’s been happening?

Many countries expressed dissatisfaction with elements of the TC report on the design of the GCF. Developing countries had many concerns–that this would become just another climate fund–and developed countries were concerned that the fund might actually be too recipient-driven and COP controlled. However, most countries thought it was better to have a compromised design than no fund at all. AOSIS practically begged Parties in the COP plenary to leave the text. Previously the US and Saudi Arabia had blocked consensus of the report as it was forwarded to the COP. But in the plenary, new voices of dissent emerge. ALBA–through Venezuela–began insisting they could not accept the text as it stood. Then COP president Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, reading from a script, declared the obvious: Parties have diverging views on the fund. She proposed that those with the biggest concerns get together and talk it over in an informal over which she would personally oversee. And just like that, the GCF disappeared from our radar.

Where it’s at now is somewhat unclear. Even after the US and ALBA looked certain to open the text, it appears that the COP presidency has kept it closed. Instead, Parties have been working in a very closed group, termed “Indabas”; a gathering,  or council of elders. We are essentially playing a waiting game to see what they come up with by the end of the week. The biggest concern right now is that some new text emerges out of the air that doesn’t reflect all Parties concerns. That’s some step down from the promise that the GCF was going into last week.

There are rumours around the halls of the ICC now that a deal has been struck. Saudi Arabia, the US, ALBA and Egypt have all been reportedly blocking progress by sticking to their positions. It seems now that something has given: but it is more likely that the sacrifices were in terms of an overall package. In other words, we will have a more or less structurally sound (apart from the concerns over a private sector facility) but empty Fund. In exchange for that, what did developing countries give up? We’ll know by tomorrow night for sure, but it can’t be good.

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