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The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is a UN multilateral climate fund to help developing countries take climate action. Its 12th meeting was recently held at its headquarters in South Korea, in which the board reviewed policies of its funding goal of $2.5 billion, and worked to accredit 13 new institutions. Real World Radio has interviewed Karen Orenstein from Friends of the Earth U.S. to discuss recent developments of the GCF, including the challenges the Fund faces, particularly in terms of its association with large international entities such as HSBC and Credit Agricole.
According to Orenstein, the recent GCF meeting had a large outcome. Formal partnerships were made with 13 institutions who have been accepted to receive and manage GCF funding, ranging from national entities to large private banks such as HSBC and Credit Agricole. The partnership with the latter group have been met with much controversy, as the banking giants appear to be undermining the very purpose of the GCF. Both banks are top fossil fuel financiers and part of the top 20 financiers of coal - the dirtiest of fossil fuels. HSBC in particular has been wrapped up in a drug-money laundering scandal. According to Orenstein,
“It is hard to see the board of the GCF partnering with a developed country institution with a record of financial scandal such as HSBC, yet because HSBC is considered a ‘too big to fail’ bank, the GCF is going ahead and formally work with them […] its an elite achievement and the opposite of what we’ve been looking for the GCF to do.”
Both HSBC and Credit Agricole are noted to still be financing fossil fuels worth billions of dollars. Orenstein claims that while some believe that engaging with the GCF can help ‘green’ their portfolio, she believes it is a form of greenwashing and that the GCF will help make them look good rather than actually making an impact. She further states that the purpose of the GCF is to ’serve the needs of ordinary people in developing countries, and its hard to see why very scarce public resources for climate should be diverted away from developing country institutions and placed in massive multinational banks.’ Despite the fact that the GCF is supposed to be an alternative to these large entities, banking giants such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, African Development Bank, and the European Investment Bank are all now accredited with the GCF.
According to Oreinstein, many of this year’s projects that are most likely to be funded are large international entities due to their judiciary standards. It appears that developing country institutions have a harder time due to the tensions between getting them ready to take on the responsibility and granting the funding quickly without compromising environmental integrity and social safeguards. However, Orenstein points out that there are contradictions with international finance corporations such as the World Bank, whose safeguards look fine on paper but are not actually implemented.
A funded program called ’Readiness’ has been put in place in order to help prepare developing country institutions to work with the GCF and increase their capacity. Nevertheless, Orenstein claims that the priority is still given to large international institutions at the expense of developing countries due to the limited resources and capacity of the GCF. Orenstein stresses the need for the GCF to divert resources towards working with those in developing countries at the national and subnational level. Furthermore, she claims there’s a need for more engagement by civil society, NGOs, and average people in order for the GCF to become an institution that is responsive to the needs of the people and not driven by governments and rich countries.
The petition for the rejection of accreditation of HSBC and Credit Agricole can be found here.
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