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UN approves $1bn in funding for green initiatives

The United Nations’ Green Climate Fund (GCF) has approved over $1bn in funding for 23 environmentally led projects, the highest amount ever confirmed in one sitting.

The new approvals bring the GCF portfolio to a total of 76 projects and programmes, amounting to $3.7bn in funding to assist developing countries in their low emission and climate resilient development.

“The Board has successfully managed an ambitious agenda this week, demonstrating its commitment to deliver a serious contribution to the response to climate change,” said the board’s co-chair Lennart Båge.

“In particular, the adoption of an Indigenous Peoples Policy and an Environmental and Social Policy is an important step towards completing GCF’s policy framework.”

This landmark policy is designed to protect indigenous people who often live in or near forests, where the fund plans to back conservation projects.

Groups that worked on the policy said it would help countries receiving GCF money to include indigenous peoples in climate policies and programmes, while preventing negative impacts of those activities on their rights.

“This is a sign of willingness of the GCF to recognise, respect and promote the rights of indigenous peoples in climate actions,” said Tunga Bhadra Rai, who comes from Nepal’s indigenous Rai community.

Countries have so far pledged more than $10bn to support the fund.

One new project, led by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the Paraguay government, will support a shift to sustainable forest management to reduce tree loss and improve quality of life for some 17,000 families, many of them indigenous, in eastern Paraguay.

The effort received a $25 million GCF grant.

The new projects approved at the meeting that ended on Thursday include efforts to build water resilience in Grenada and Barbados and set up financial instruments for energy-efficient cities in Brazil.

They also include a credit line for rooftop solar systems in India, a clean cooking programme in Bangladesh and help for rural communities in northern Rwanda to overcome climate pressures.

The board meeting this week delayed a decision on adopting an updated policy on gender equality and social inclusion after board members from three countries - Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Cuba - raised objections over its wording on sexual orientation.

There was also a call to insert language so that application of the policy would depend on a country’s stance on the issues, observers said.

Civil society groups were concerned that allowing such caveats could set a bad precedent, enabling national agencies to ignore gender balance and the interests of LGBT or disabled people in their GCF-funded work.

“That is basically a slap in the face in terms of an acknowledgement that human rights and women’s rights apply internationally and in the same way,” said Liane Schalatek, associate director at the Heinrich Boell Foundation North America, who was at the board meeting.

The fund already has an interim gender policy and there have been practical moves to apply that, such as requiring a new private-sector project that aims to help African farmers adapt to climate change put in place a plan to ensure it reaches both women and men.

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