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Green Climate Fund chief steps down after ‘challenging and difficult’ meeting

The executive director of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) has stepped down following a “challenging and difficult” four-day meeting, in the wake of declining financial support from the US and the Trump administration’s climate scepticism.

Australian climate finance expert Howard Bamsey announced he was stepping down at the end of the meeting in Songdo, South Korea, the GCF said in a statement.

The GCF was set up in 2010 to assist developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change.

The US had pledged $3bn under Barack Obama, of which $2bn is still outstanding. Obama transferred a second $500m instalment in January 2017 in his final three days in office.

Since his departure the US has so far failed to transfer the rest of the money they committed.

The fund won initial pledges totalling $10.3bn in 2014, although Trump halted contributions as part of his decision to quit the 2015 Paris Agreement, cutting the total fund to just $8bn.

The GCF has been bogged down by disputes between rich and poor nations about how and where to invest.

“This has been a very difficult and disappointing board meeting for all of us, but most importantly for those people who are most vulnerable to climate change impacts and who depend on the activities of the Fund,” GCF chair Lennart Baage said in a statement.

The meeting had “challenging and difficult discussions between Board members”, the GCF said in a statement.

A GCF spokesman said Baage declined further comment.

The meeting failed to add to its portfolio of 76 projects worth $3.7bn, which range from promoting rooftop solar energy in India to helping Colombia safeguard wetlands.

The GCF did not give a reason for Bamsey’s departure, which is effective immediately, but Baage said he had done an “exceptional job” since taking over in 2016.

As part of the Paris Agreement, rich nations pledged to raise total climate finance, from both private and public sources, to $100bn a year by 2020 and to raise it further in the 2020s.

Last year, banking experts claimed that it is difficult to invest in the plans that individual countries have drafted in accordance with the Paris Agreement, as they are not much more than lists of potential projects at this point. 

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