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More work needed to turn climate billions into action: Secretary-General

11 December 2018

While billions of pounds have been pledged to tackle climate change, much more is required to turn the tide on global warming. And even more effort is required to translate the money that has been committed into action on the ground, according to Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland.

At the UN Climate Change Conference (COP24) in Katowice, Poland, the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change reported a 17 per cent increase in global climate finance flows from 2015 to 2016.

While the Secretary-General welcomed the boost, she stressed that not only do the available funds still fall woefully short of the needs of developing countries, but that the most vulnerable states are struggling to access financing for climate projects, due to cumbersome application procedures and their own lack of capacity.

“Innovative financing options are needed for both demand and supply. On the supply side, countries with advanced economies need to deliver the promised finances required to deal adequately with the challenge of climate change,” she told delegates at the High-Level Ministerial Dialogue on climate finance yesterday.

“However, in addition to the quantity of finance available, the means by which it is made available to our member countries needs to be simplified. The modest amounts available are not currently reaching the intended beneficiaries because of complex application processes.”

That is why the Commonwealth set up the Climate Finance Access Hub (CFAH), which deploys advisers to help countries draw up strong proposals for climate change projects and navigate the tedious terrain of securing the funding.

“It has been observed that a number of small island developing states and least developed countries have not been able to benefit from the increased climate finance flows, due to number of prevailing capacity issues.  Consequently, many undoubtedly deserving and climatically vulnerable states in the world have been largely left behind in seeking benefits from the available sources of climate finance,” said CFAH general manager Bilal Anwar.

Since it was launched two years ago, the hub has mobilised £4.1 million with £207 million in the pipeline for projects in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. Most focus on adapting to climate change impacts.

Key lessons learned from the programme include the importance of building capacity at the country level – governments simply lack the human resources to focus on applying for climate funding – and allowing countries to align climate actions with national plans for sustainable development.

In addition, national stakeholders need to interact more with regional multilateral development banks and international climate finance bodies. A project based on partnership and action can greatly benefit a country.

In addition to Hub, the Secretary-General cited other tools developed by the Commonwealth to address climate issues, such as implementation toolkits for the Sustainable Development Goals and the Nationally Determined Commitments, a web-based portal for disaster risk finance, as well as a Universal Vulnerability Index, which was discussed recently at the Commonwealth Finance Ministers annual conference in Bali.