Tower of Babel needed at climate talks

Tower of Babel needed at climate talks

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For many years, developing country parties have expressed deep frustration and disappointment with the Global Environment Facility – otherwise known as the GEF. The G77 and China (representing over 130 developing countries) have been crystal clear that the GEF should not be designated as the permanent financial mechanism of the UNFCCC, and it is developing countries which the GEF is supposed to urgently serve. Yet developed countries over and over again express their support for the GEF, despite the severe (yet politely and diplomatically delivered) criticism of the GEF spoken just seconds earlier by a developing country representative.

The GEF currently operates as a financing mechanism of the UNFCCC, but only on an interim basis. Developed countries do not hide their intention of establishing the GEF as the financial mechanism for the indefinite future. But, among other problems associated with the GEF — it doesn’t have an equitable governance structure, is very unresponsive to the needs of smaller developing countries, its funds are difficult to access, it’s extremely slow and inefficient, and it is not actually accountable to the UNFCCC. Algeria, speaking on behalf of the African Group, noted that all three CEOs of the GEF have been from developed countries.

Maldives, speaking on behalf of the Least Developed Countries, politely expressed disappointment with the slow speed of projects on the ground. GEF funds are supposed to address urgent needs, yet some seven years after the establishment of the Least Developed Country Fund operated by the GEF, not a single project has been executed.

The GEF representative at this particular session described the Least Developed Country Fund as “well financed.” Yet a mere $172 million has been pledged to it since its establishment in 2001. Does this represent adequate financing? This can’t be for real!  The UNDP estimates that $86 billion will be needed annually by 2015. Or, as the representative of the G77 and China pled, $172 million to date is not even half the Christmas bonus of the CEO of one of the big banks given billions for Wall Street bailouts!

What an Alice in Wonderland world we live in!