by Danica Marie Supnet

Climate change poses both risks and opportunities. Confronting the climate crisis would spur better development and economic growth.

Yet after sitting with hundreds of participants from 55 countries at the 2nd International Conference on Climate Finance (ICCF 2019) in Dhaka, Bangladesh, it seems to me that this mode of thinking has yet to be more prevalent among citizens of least developed countries and developing countries. It made me realize that there is so much at stake and that time is running out.

Kairos in ICCF 2019

Kairos in ICCF 2019

My colleague, Kairos, and I had the privilege to represent the Philippines in the ICCF and share ICSC’s climate policy agenda. We presented a case study on enhanced direct access as embodied by the People’s Survival Fund (PSF) Law, as well as shared our experience on local tracking climate finance through the Adaptation Finance Accountability Initiative (AFAI+).

The conference revolved around challenges and opportunities in climate finance, focusing on enhancing discussions, contribution access, mobilization and utilization. Part of the opening remarks by the executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Advanced Studies (BCAS), Dr. Atiq Rahman, reminded me that we encounter similar challenges and, more importantly, opportunities in climate finance with Vietnamese and Indonesian colleagues within the Asia Community of Practice for climate finance accountability.

As he mentioned, one opportunity is that climate finance is readily available from international sources, domestic public and private finance, green bonds, organization-based funding mechanisms, and household-level initiatives.

However, accessibility remains to be a challenge. Climate finance flows remain far from the ideal vision of a long-stream, inclusive, and predictable pipeline. Others may argue that the amount of climate financing has been increasing; however, access is somehow limited due to the lack of right information on resources, and in some cases, due to the lack of accountability mechanisms and tracking of finance flows.

Opportunities and challenges at the national level

At the national level, having an established national-led climate finance mechanism is an opportunity to fund their local climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies. The People’s Survival Fund (PSF) in the Philippines provides direct access to funds from the country’s national budget to jumpstart adaptation strategies of local government units (LGUs) and local organizations. Bangladesh, on the other hand, established the Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund (BCCTF), the first least development country-led finance mechanism established in 2010.

These national funds serve as the backbone of climate finance initiatives in these countries. However, the requirements to implement impactful activities exclusively from these funds usually remain higher than what is currently available. For instance, the PSF serves as a suppletory fund, which means the fund can only allocate budget for a portion of an LGU’s or organization’s adaptation strategies.

This gap can be filled by additional climate finance sources, such as international climate funds.

In the Philippines, over US$ 5 billion of climate finance from international bilateral and non-bilateral sources have been committed from 2010 to 2017, wherein over 70% (USD 3 billion) is allotted for mitigation. Meanwhile, more than a billion US dollars were committed to support adaptation initiatives. This could also be the same with Bangladesh. These figures are significant. We should thus ask: Where does the money go?

What can stakeholders do?

The conference served as an avenue to demand cooperation from different stakeholders, much more for the call for accountability and climate action. This statement is tantamount to the lessons we’ve learned in the process of AFAI+.

1. Local organizations and academic institutions must lead the tracking of climate finance through a measurable, verifiable, and replicable (MVR) mechanism. Tracking from international pipelines to local application addresses information gaps by showing how the funds were actually utilized on the ground. One of ICSC’s pioneering work through AFAI+ is to ensure viable spaces for collaboration across different stakeholders such as the government, academe and civil society.

2. Addressing the climate crisis demands shared leadership on a global scale. AFAI+ indicated that commitments are contributor-reported data, which means it is not subject to country validation. It is thus important to engage with contributors to improve climate finance reporting. Oversight of the Congress and Senate are examples of clear manifestations of such mechanisms.

3. Regional communities of practice for climate finance accountability must be promoted. South-South knowledge sharing on replicable good practices and mechanisms on climate finance tracking should strengthen our positions collectively, especially on global negotiations. Regional country networks already exist, such as the Asia Community of Practice for climate finance accountability with members from the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Bangladesh. Similar initiatives such as the Regional Climate Finance Network, as Dr. Saleemul Huq mentioned, aim to bring in together stakeholders in the Asia Pacific region who are working on climate finance to share information on accessibility.

This year’s conference may have focused on the opportunities and challenges on climate finance, but Dr. Rahman and Dr. Huq look forward to building on the discussion on local implementation of climate action in next year’s ICCF.

It is true that the definition of climate finance remains debatable, based on how each stakeholder perceives its function. But the concept of accountability is fundamental to mobilizing resources. As I have shared during the ICCF 2019, accountability must be treated as a responsibility and not an imposition.

Danica Marie Supnet leads ICSC’s coordination with local academic institutions to localize the slow-onset events associated with climate change impacts in the country, as well as to craft adaptation proposals with local governments and communities. She also works on the local tracking initiative of climate adaptation finance in the Philippines.