Blog | August 2017

Contributing to a fairer climate finance regime: 5 lessons learned from 5 years of CFAS

In late 2012, Germanwatch and partners, with support from the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), launched the Climate Finance Advisory Service (CFAS) to enable representatives of the most vulnerable developing countries to effectively participate in complex global climate finance negotiations in order to ensure that the needs of the poorest and most exposed to the impact of climate change are adequately considered. Through its work, CFAS has contributed to build and strengthen the existing systems by delivering bespoke technical assistance, capacity building and knowledge products to support representatives of the most vulnerable developing countries in decision-making processes. Due to serious capacity constraints, meaningfully engaging in these debates is a particular challenge for those that are highly vulnerable to climate change, in particular Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

An adequate and equitable global climate finance regime is of course a huge task, and CFAS has only made a contribution in the best of its capacity towards achieving this goal. But nonetheless, looking back at the past five years, we have learned a few things on how to best support the representatives of the most vulnerable countries as they fight for a fairer climate finance regime.

1: Capacity support for the most vulnerable countries on climate finance negotiations is needed now more than ever

Back when CFAS was established, climate finance negotiations had already delivered a set of basic decisions to lay the groundwork for a climate finance regime: developed countries committed to mobilize USD 100 billion annually by 2020 at COP15; the Green Climate Fund was created; developed countries had just delivered USD 30 billion of "Fast-Start Finance"; and the Standing Committee on Finance had just taken up its work. The basic premise of CFAS was - and continues to be - that developing countries should be actively involved in shaping these new institutions and commitments, and support the process to meet their specific needs and demands. They should not just participate in the climate finance game - they should instead be able to shape the rules of the game.

But in the world of climate finance, new questions always arise as soon as others are answered. With the entry into force of the Paris Agreement in 2016 the international climate finance debate has entered a new phase. The Paris Agreement has confirmed an overwhelming global consensus regarding the importance of climate finance, affirming the related institutions built in the last few years, while leaving many of the details of the future climate finance regime to be defined through negotiations and practice in the coming years. Implementing and fleshing out the rules that the Paris Agreement provides will inform future debates. As discussions become even more technical than they already were in 2012, the challenge now is not only to defend what was already achieved, but also continuing to build a more effective system based on existing learning. Both will only be possible if those developing countries that are most impacted by climate change can make their voice heard and be considered.

2: Follow and respect the needs of your partners

Providing technical assistance can only be truly effective if it is tailored to and respects the needs and priorities of the ones making use of it. Therefore, CFAS' approach to jointly identify and define with its partners in advance those specific topics on the finance agenda, for which further external inputs are required, has proven critical for the success of this project. This demand-drivenness has not only avoided stimulating the perception that the service provided is dictated and following someone else's agenda, but also ensured that the selected themes are judged relevant by the supported partners and truly address crucial issues discussed at the negotiation table or other climate finance meetings. This is not undermined by the fact that once the key priorities and essential needs are determined, a proactive and forward-looking approach in preparing some elements of support (small think pieces, document analyses, etc.) is needed to ensure a timely and efficient delivery of the technical assistance requested.

3: Build long-term relationships, based on trust

In carrying out this project, CFAS did not start from scratch, but rather built upon an existing network of partners and work relationship with government officials, negotiators and other stakeholders across the developing world known from previous work undertaken by Germanwatch and its consortium partners have been doing in the past.

This has proven to be a vital factor as CFAS has learned that establishing trustful, long-lasting relationships through the collaboration with its partners is crucial to provide meaningful and effective support. At that, it has shown that providing technical assistance is always most useful if it is done interpersonally, e.g. through consultations with the partners on the side lines of official meetings, face to face interactions, etc. However, as much of the CFAS work it also carried out from the respective offices of its consortium members, it is equally important to establishing efficient communication channels to facilitate a continuous exchange and developing a working routine.

4: Bring together a diversity of substantive and regional backgrounds

The degree of detail of negotiations and discussions on climate finance has become more complex and technical. Having a diverse consortium with broad technical expertise in various aspects of the thematic climate finance spectrum, as well as possessing a deeper understanding of local and regional contexts, has aided CFAS throughout its mission and contributed to its achievements.

In addition, ensuring continuity in the composition of the consortium and allowing members to follow specific processes over the course of several years has also greatly increased the quality of the services provided. In fact, being part of the CFAS consortium itself has promoted many of its developing country experts to become intellectual leaders on climate finance issues in their country. In turn, this feedback effect has also contributed to make sure the needs of the most vulnerable are well reflected in the climate finance negotiations.

5: Don't forget the broader landscape of relevant stakeholders

In addition to its focus on delegates, government officials and negotiators, CFAS found that the broader stakeholder community also has to be taken on board to facilitate and promote what the Green Climate Fund (GCF) calls a "paradigm shift towards low-emission and climate resilient development", and in contribution to local ownership of the process. This is even more important considering how small the group of stakeholders working on climate finance still is, especially in many developing countries. CFAS is witnessing a relatively high turnover in official delegations, where a number of new negotiators and Board Members are coming in, slowly replacing the generation that was involved in the negotiations until Paris. In this post-Paris era, someone who is a researcher or activist today might very well be negotiating on behalf of their country tomorrow.