The recent Green Climate Fund (GCF) board meeting in Songdo, South Korea, has ended with 100 million dollars in funding to drought proof Ethiopian communities in limbo. The meeting opened on April 4, 2017.
The project, which would cost a total of over 150 million dollars, would address the resilience to drought of 22 weredas, selected by the government out of 200 which were worst hit by the drought. The project would focus on more social aspects of drought resilience, training communities to be able to effectively get through future extreme weather patterns.
Representatives of the United States, Canada, Sweden and Germany, who sat on the 24-member board, objected to the funding proposal, following the assessment of an independent panel that said the project was “weak” and had “little scope for innovation.”
“GCF Board decisions are made by consensus and are soley based on the technical merits of a proposal,” the US Embassy in Addis Abeba told Fortune.
The project was then effectively put on hold until the next board meeting, scheduled to take place in July, as no board decisions can be made without a unanimous vote.
“Until then, the necessary resources for the project on the part of the government will have to be mobilised,” says Mulugeta Mengistu (PhD), representative of Ethiopia at the meeting, and special advisor to the Prime Minister’s Office on climate change.
“Just because the project did not receive those resources, it does not mean that our efforts in the project will stop,” he explained. “Of the total funding, the government would be providing around 60 million dollars. The resources will start being mobilised as we try to address the objections.”
Amongst the objections raised, was the complexity of the project, which involved behavioural and social change. However, this would be a hard project to coordinate, as it does not focus on a single intervention.
“The work of building resilience is extensive,” Mulugeta told Fortune. “It is a necessary part of building a more environmentally safe economy.”
In addition, the fact that the funding would be in the form of a grant, and not a loan was a questionable point for some of the board members.
The decision caused controversy at the meeting, with the delegates from the developing countries defending the proposal, and accusing the panel of bias. Experts and donors may prefer infrastructure and tech interventions with easily measurable results, but the program, which encourages social and behavioural change was designed with extensive consultation with experts, according to the objecting delegates.
“The Ethiopian contingent was fighting for the proposal to the end,” said Tosi Mpanu Mpanu, a GCF member from DR Congo, speaking to Climate Home.
“It will discourage people if they walk away empty handed,” he said. “They will definitely be a bit puzzled and bewildered, because they say ‘we are putting so much effort and manpower and resources and this is what we get’.”
Ethiopia’s proposal stood in contrast to plants to refurbish a Soviet-era hydropower dam in Tajikistan. The proposal got high ratings from the expert panel, but was opposed by NGOs for not representing the type of the change the GCF was meant to support.
Selam Kidane, an expert on climate change, agrees with the assessment.
“It was frustrating to the delegates not to get a clear answer on this,” she told Fortune.
Money flow from the Green Climate Fund is slow even to approved project. An 80 million dollars grant for cyclone shelters in Bangladesh, which was approved two years ago, has not yet been disbursed.
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