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Expert Available: Janet Redman, expert on the Green Climate Fund, governing instrument to finance climate adaptation

March 11, 2013

** EXPERT AVAILABLE: Janet Redman, expert on the Green Climate Fund, governing instrument to finance climate adaptation **
For interviews with Janet Redman, please contact: Lacy MacAuley, Institute for Policy Studies, +1 202 445 4692, lacy@ips-dc.org.

A meeting is being held this week in Berlin, Germany, to discuss an important fund that could provide money to poor countries to help them adapt to a changing climate, build sustainable infrastructure, and avoid further climate crisis. Janet Redman, co-director of the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network at IPS, is a civil society observer at the meeting and an expert on the Green Climate Fund. IPS interviewed Redman before she departed for Berlin:

Institute for Policy Studies: Finance ministers and government officials from all over the world will be meeting this week in Berlin to talk about the Green Climate Fund. What is the Green Climate Fund and why is it important?

Janet Redman: The Green Climate Fund, which is part of the new UN Framework on Climate Change, is a really important part of fighting the climate crisis. Right now there are no international institutions that specifically address climate change on the scale that many people feel is necessary to match the scale of the crisis. We need to really be transforming the global economy in order to solve the climate crisis.

A big part of that needs to be building resilience to climate change in the countries that are most impacted by that and the least financially able to cope with those changes and who are the least responsible for causing them, which are the countries of the global South. Along with that, those countries have the right to develop. Just like we do. We expect the lights to come on when we flip the switch. Those countries also deserve to have the lights come on when they flip the switch. But if those countries like India, China, Brazil follow the same energy path that we used to get here – we went though super dirty coal, dirty oil – we’re not going to be able to keep greenhouse gas emissions at a level that is safe and prevents global warming to a catastrophic volume.

IPS: So the Green Climate Fund will help poor countries adapt to climate change, and help them avoid dirty energy?

JR: Yes, the Fund is important because there’s a need for lots and lots of money and lots and lots of financing to do the kind of good ideas that all of us have, and that people in developing countries have articulated in their own plans and their own strategies to deal with climate, but there’s just not a lot of money to do it right now. So part of the job of the Green Climate Fund is to channel money that’s supposed to channel from the Global North to the Global South to specifically deal with the impacts of climate change, to move to low-carbon, sustainable development pathways, and to build climate resilience into the way that developing countries are doing development.

IPS: What is on the agenda at this week’s meeting in Berlin?

JR: We’re working on making sure that national level plans for better infrastructure, sustainable energy, and so forth are developed in a way that is truly participatory. For example, we want to make sure that India’s climate plan includes the Indian government and includes input from people who are generally politically marginalized in those countries. That is work that needs to be hammered out in this next meeting. We need to work out how the civil society participates in making all those different structures at the national level, and making sure that the board at the global level is open, transparent, and accountable to those who are in communities and countries that are most impacted. This needs to be an open process, and not a closed-door process.”

One of the most important parts of this meeting is that these board members will be talking about what they call the “business model” of the Green Climate Fund. They’ll be talking about what the goals are for the Fund, and deciding whether they’ll move lots of public sector money or private sector money.

IPS: Why should we be watching whether the fund moves public/taxpayer money or private/corporate money?

JR: Private sector investment is not the best plan to help countries avoid climate crisis. Our concern is that we’ve seen from earlier private sector institutions like the International Finance Corporation that private sector investment doesn’t reach the least developed countries, the smallest economies, the poorest countries, or even the poor or marginalized people within middle-income countries or larger economies.

If this fund is about maximizing private sector investment versus meeting the needs of people in developing countries around climate change, then we’re risking not actually addressing the climate crisis. What we’re doing then is making money for the private sector, and that’s not the point of the Green Climate Fund.

IPS: How is the so-called “business model” related to this private sector scheme?

JR: I am very concerned that much of the idea of the “business model” has been “How do we make sweet deals for the private sector?” instead of “How do we meet the needs of people affected by the climate crisis?” But the private sector needs to be just a piece of the puzzle, not the only solution. It’s about reducing greenhouse gas emissions globally, but we also need to understand that countries need to develop in ways that leave our planet safe for future generations.

The opening paragraph of the Green Climate Fund document talks about how the fund is supposed to represent  a “paradigm shift.” We’re very concerned that the paradigm shift may be just building more global financial infrastructure, instead of a shift away from exploitation, extraction, and overconsumption.

IPS: It seems like the private sector, corporations, and financiers have a lot of voice in these meetings. How are civil society, advocates, and concerned citizens being heard?

JR: Civil society is almost entirely shut out of the meetings. Only two civil society representatives are permitted to be part of the meetings, and their participation is limited. Beyond just sitting in the room, the meeting has been very closed. This is a very important meeting, and the problem is that there has been a real lack of transparency. Overall, all of global civil society is being represented by two people. And they’re only going to be allowed to speak in brief, three-minute speeches, and then only if the meeting facilitator decides that they have time. So civil society can only speak at the behest of the meeting facilitator.

The other civil society observers are not actually allowed in the room. We’ve been put into a room next to the meeting room and are going to be watching a live feed from the room next door. So there is a real lack of openness here. They want this to run like a corporate board, and that’s a real problem because this is a public fund, using public money.

What’s also frustrating is that they will not webcast or livestream the meetings. What that says to us is that they don’t want people looking at their process, and they want to have a closed conversation, and that is unacceptable. This is a 21st century fund that’s moving backwards, and it’s a fund that will impact all of us and that we all have a stake in.

IPS: Is there any hope that the Green Climate Fund can be effective, given the challenges and frustrations that you’ve described?

JR: I still retain some hope. I think there is a possibility that it could be an institution that could help empower countries and avoid climate change.

It’s exciting to think that the institution is so focused on a “paradigm shift,” and a paradigm shift is really needed. Certain things are clear: This fund should not support fossil-fuel-based technologies or nuclear energy. This fund should not fund megaprojects that displace people and harm the land. We need a fund that actually does help us.

For interviews with Janet Redman, please contact: Lacy MacAuley, Institute for Policy Studies, +1 202 445 4692, lacy@ips-dc.org.