Unlocking the Green Climate Fund: Learning from Country Readiness Perspectives at the COP 23

UN Environment/UNDP/WRI GCF Readiness Programme co-hosted a side event at the COP 23, Unlocking the Green Climate Fund: Country Readiness Perspectives.
World leaders convened at the 23rd Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP 23, in November 2017 in Bonn, Germany. This year, the delegates gathered to assess progress made towards nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to the global emissions reduction target set under the Paris Agreement. The historic agreement, negotiated at the COP 21 in 2015, outlines specific actions and targets for reducing greenhouse gases emissions, adapting to the effects of climate change, and financing mitigation and adaptation efforts in developing countries. 
The UN Environment/UNDP/WRI Green Climate Fund Readiness Programme and the Climate Finance Readiness Programme, implemented by GIZ, co-hosted a side event at this year’s conference, Unlocking the Green Climate Fund: Country Readiness Perspectives, which presented country perspectives on accessing and engaging with the Green Climate Fund (GCF). The support from both initiatives, funded by the Government of Germany, covers 24 countries. 
The event, moderated by UNDP’s Principal Advisor for Climate Change Stephen Gold, featured National Designated Authority (NDA) representatives from Nepal, Grenada, and Georgia, as well as representatives from the GCF Board, to explore country experiences preparing to access the GCF. Panellists and participants discussed best practice approaches to assessing vulnerabilities and setting national targets, drawing practical roadmaps for financing the most pressing climate interventions, and prioritizing initiatives in a way that maximizes impact of funding made available through the GCF.
NDA representatives shared their experiences of both the opportunities and challenges they had faced in getting ready to access the GCF, from identifying and establishing focal point institutions and measuring public and private sector investment in climate-related projects, to nominating and supporting national candidates for GCF direct access through the accreditation process. 
Maia Tskhvaradze, Georgia’s NDA representative and Chief Specialist of Climate Change Service and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection, commented on involving private actors in GCF investments: “In Georgia it is particularly difficult to engage the private sector; they don’t see the benefits of engaging on climate”.
To address this challenge, the Climate Finance Readiness Programme helped the NDA build private sector stakeholders’ awareness of climate risk and understanding of the opportunities available through the GCF with targeted, technical workshops.  
“With the Readiness Programme, we had a very stakeholder-intensive process. It was very important because without them we can’t implement our NDC,” she said. “We have been working with public and private entities to get them accredited. We had large and bilateral meetings with interested entities, including together with the GCF [and GIZ].”
For Nepal, some of the major challenges related to the country’s decentralised federal structure, which made it difficult to establish participatory processes and engage effectively with local governments. 
“A challenge for Nepal is the process of federalism; we now have 700 local governments. We had to rethink our strategy in order to engage with those new government bodies. We are building this into our strategy now,” said Shiva Sharma, Nepal’s NDA representative and National Project Director, International Economic Cooperation Coordination Division of the Ministry of Finance. “We also mapped all stakeholders from government, private sector, NGOs to better understand who the key players are.”
Representatives also shared experiences on setting up their NDAs. For Nepal, housing the NDA within the Ministry of Finance made sense because “it has an overview of sectors on the macro level, which makes it easy for us to coordinate other ministries”. However, Mr. Sharma said that some ministries felt this had led to isolation of GCF engagement in one ministry, at the expense of broader cross-sectoral participation. “We have a high-level coordination committee to help with this challenge,” he said.
In Georgia, the Ministry of Environment has been appointed as the NDA. While this made sense because the ministry “has historical knowledge of climate issues,” and “within the Ministry almost everyone is familiar with the issues we have to work with,” said Ms Tskhvaradze, they had also faced other challenges. According to Ms. Tskhvaradze, the MoE in Georgia doesn’t enjoy the same rank or convening power as some of the other ministries.
“[As a result], we can’t force the other ministries to do what we want. This also leads to ownership problems for other ministries – they don’t feel ownership over the process that is led by us. We tried to address this gap by developing a strong high-level coordination committee to oversee implementation of GCF program and other similar processes.” 
Despite challenges faced, all the countries that have received readiness support expressed their satisfaction with the support. They acknowledged that the climate finance tools, policies, and procedures established to increase access to GCF finance were a positive and necessary step towards meeting their Paris Agreement commitments and minimizing the impact of climate change on their citizens.