More than meetings: the way forward on climate finance

Smita Nakhooda, ODI

At the COP 19 in Warsaw, Christiana Figueres sent governments back home with a command: “Governments, and especially developed nations, must go back to do their homework so they can put their plans on the table ahead of the Paris conference”. What exactly does it mean? On finance, it means that developed countries must walk the walk and help developing countries respond to climate change.

Hopes were high at the beginning of 2013 for a “Finance COP”: that when parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change met in Warsaw at the end of this year, they would be able to make new progress on this sticky issue.  With the new year almost upon us, what has happened so far and what is the way forward?

A quick look backwards

Developed countries have always had obligations to provide finance to help developing countries respond to climate change, because developing countries have done less to cause climate change and still confront pressing poverty reduction challenges. In 2010 developed countries agreed to mobilise US$100 billion per year in new and additional finance from public and private sources to support developing countries to respond to climate change. As a demonstration of good faith, they would deliver US$30 billion in Fast Start Finance (FSF) between 2010 and 2012, with a focus on scaling up support for adaptation to help vulnerable developing countries, particularly small island developing states and African nations, deal with the impacts of climate change. Developed countries managed to meet – and indeed to even exceed– these commitments.

Last year’s UNFCCC meetings in Doha did not give countries much clarity on the medium term outlook for finance. A year-long technical work programme on long term finance grappled with the difficult underlying issues, such as the need for developing countries to introduce domestic policy processes to mobilise new sources of finance , as well as the policy, regulatory and institutional conditions that need to be addressed to enable greater private investment in the solutions to climate change.  It highlighted the need for a political dialogue on how to respond to finance needs. The Doha Gateway extended this work program, and also agreed to convene a High Level Ministerial Dialogue on Climate Finance. It also confirmed the need to make rapid progress in operationalising the Green Climate Fund.

So what do we have to show for the “Finance COP”?

Several countries did come forward with new pledges of finance at Warsaw. The leadership of European countries on this agenda, despite their significant economic and financial challenges at home, is noteworthy. A number of these countries, particularly Germany, committed US$104 million to the Adaptation Fund of the Kyoto Protocol, allowing it to meet its rather modest 2013 fundraising target of US$100 million. The UK has been a particularly significant actor: it has created a dedicated mechanism to deliver finance through its International Climate Fund, and has recently increased the amount of finance it will make available from £2.9 billion by 2015 to £3.87 billion by 2016. Together with the US and Norway, it committed US$280million for a new World Bank managed program to promote sustainable forest landscapes, in an effort to attract private investment to activities that reduce emissions from unsustainable land use practices. Japan committed US$16 billion in finance for developed countries in the context of announcing that it would not be able to meet its original GHG emission reduction targets. But this finance, similar to the funding it committed during the FSF period, is expected to be largely delivered as concessional and non-concessional loans. Much of it will help support Japanese companies to do business in climate-relevant sectors. However, while one of its objectives could have been to position climate change as a centrally important issue for Ministries of Finance, the Ministerial was dominated by Ministries of Environment.

The negotiated language on long term finance takes a small step forward by setting an implicit “floor” for public climate finance commitments by “Urg[ing] developed country Parties to maintain continuity of mobilization of public climate finance at increasing levels from the fast-start finance period”. It calls for a “substantial share” of public finance to support adaptation activities. And it “recognise[s]” the commitment to mobilise US$100 billion from public and private sources by 2020 “in the context of meaningful action and transparency”.

The outlook for 2014: a lot of homework to be done (and it will have to be done in capitals)

But it does not offer much more than that, despite repeated calls from developing countries on pathways to scaling up, and the proposal of a mid-term target of $70 billion per year. It does, however, “request” developed countries to prepare biennial submissions on how they will increase support, and to provide any available information on pathways. The Standing Committee on Finance will prepare its first biennial assessment of climate finance flows. Such an effort has the potential to offer some needed clarity on what should “count” as climate finance, and to offer a better sense of the current finance for adaptation and mitigation activities, including from the private sector.

In addition, the COP called for a rapid progress in finalising the operationalization of the Green Climate Fund. The fund has the potential to fill important gaps in the current climate finance architecture, supporting institutions in developing countries to incorporate climate change into their investment and development planning processes, and helping them to harness and direct private investment into low carbon and climate resilient options. The “historic opportunity” that the GCF presents was stressed by World Bank President Jim Yong Kim at its launch in Song Do earlier this year.

Finally, parties “decided” to convene a biennial high level Ministerial Dialogue on Climate Finance, informed by the new spree of technical meetings on climate finance that are poised to get underway, starting at COP 20 in Lima. The Climate Summit that the UN Secretary General will be convening in September 2014 may be an important stepping stone in the lead up to COP 20, if governments and actors including business and civil society are able to pledge ambitious action.

But it will take a lot of work, at home in capitals, for next year’s busy calendar of international technical meetings and high level political summits, to yield meaningful results. For Figueres’s wishes to come true, this will require us to convince policy makers and their constituents in developed countries that finance to help developing countries respond to climate change can make a real difference, and can be used effectively to deliver meaningful global benefits.

Climate finance highlights since July 2013

Climate Funds Update data is now current as of October 2013.[1] This brief note highlights new developments including pledges, approvals, and disbursements.

New Climate Finance pledges July 2013 – November 2013:

Pledges and deposits have been fairly static. The US has made the largest new deposits of USD 176 million to the Clean Technology Fund (CTF). The UK has also increased its deposit to the CTF by USD 7 million since June 2013, but no other significant changes have been registered for other countries.

New approvals and disbursements July 2013 – November 2013:

Funds are getting down to work, and USD 1.2 billion was approved for new projects since July,   although only about USD 195 million was disbursed.

ppt chart for post

  • Mitigation funds have been most active, in particular the CTF with USD 835 million of new funding approved, primarily targeting India through three concessional loans financing a large-scale solar park in Rajasthan, a national energy efficiency programme, and hydropower development in Himachal Pradesh
  • The GEF5, under the UNFCCC, also approved a considerable amount of funding (USD 125 million) for 41 new projects in 10 different countries. Mexico received the largest new approval with a USD 17 million grant for the Sustainable Energy Technology Development project.
  • The Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR) approved additional US$ 200 million for adaptation finance for 8 full size projects and 6 project preparation grants.  The largest project is the US$ 45 million for Strengthening the Resilience to climate change in the Rio Grande Basin and National capacity for Managing Climate change in Bolivia;
  • Finally, about USD 48 million of new REDD+ finance has been approved by the Amazon Fund and the Congo Basin Forest Fund (CBFF).

 

For an overview of key trends in dedicated climate finance in 2013, please take a look at the ODI HBF report 10 Things to Know About Climate Finance in 2013. CFU users may also be interested in our review of lessons from the Fast Start Finance period for long term climate finance, and our studies of the effectiveness of multilateral climate funds.


[1] Data was confirmed by fund managers in September and October 2013

Climate Finance: A Few Fundamentals for 2013

Developed countries have provided finance to help developing countries respond to climate change through many different channels, including dedicated multilateral climate funds. The UNFCCC COP in Warsaw this week, it is hoped, will focus political attention on climate finance. A High-level Ministerial Dialogue, chaired by the Ugandan Minister of Finance and the Danish Minister of Climate Energy and Buildings, will take stock of the efforts taken to scale up climate finance in the last year and to provide a strategy on how to make further progress.

In advance of these important meetings, ODI and the Heinrich Böll Foundation North America have released our annual series of Climate Finance Fundamentals (CFFs). The CFFs analyse major trends that emerge from our efforts to monitor finance spent through these funds on Climate Funds Update.

USD 356 million has been pledged and USD 749 million deposited to these funds since last year. The largest contributors to these funds were the UK, US, Germany and Japan. Between October 2012 and September 2013, USD 431 million was approved for new projects and USD 429 million disbursed to support 157 projects, a 23% increase from the number of projects approved the previous year.

Approved mitigation finance has increased by 29%. The Clean Technology Fund is the biggest player in mitigation finance, tending to concentrate on large-scale programs in a small number of emerging economies. It approved a total of USD 2.2 billion (only including projects approved by both the Trust Fund Committees and the implementing Multilateral Development Banks). Almost 90% of total mitigation finance is concentrated in just twenty countries. Some of the largest mitigation projects are concentrating solar programs in the Middle East and North Africa (Egypt and Morocco), and in Asia. Only USD 120 million was approved for new projects in Asia, which represents a substantial decrease relative to past years.

Approved funding for adaptation increased by 34%. Overall, although it still receives only 21% of total approved climate finance targets adaptation as a whole. The Adaptation Fund and the Special Climate Change Fund registered the highest increase of approved finance in the last year. 40% of the USD 93 million approved for projects in Sub-Saharan Africa focused on adaptation.

Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) focused funds have been relatively static over the last 12 months, with only USD 34 million in new pledges. USD 100 million was approved for new projects. Norway remains the largest contributor of REDD+ finance. However, the future of programs such as Australia’s Forest Carbon Initiative is highly uncertain. USD 556 million in REDD+ finance was directed to Latin America, with much of it going to Brazil. While relatively few new projects appear to have been approved in the region, disbursement appears to have increased by at least 43%, suggesting that program implementation is advancing.

The newest actor in this complex and evolving architecture is the Green Climate Fund (GCF), established by the UNFCCC COP with an independent secretariat that is about to move to Song Do, Korea. Hopes are high that the GCF will be operational by the end of 2014, but progress has been slow, as a number of key issues still remain to be resolved by the 24-member Board.

Progress continues to be made in incorporating gender considerations into fund programming. In 2013 the Climate Investment Funds (CIF) recruited a gender specialist, and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) made progress in implementing its gender policy. The GCF has the opportunity to be the first climate fund to emphasise gender dimensions of climate change from the outset.

Finally, while the transparency of climate finance has been improving, there is a continued need for more complete and comparable reporting by funds. The commitments that the GEF, CIF and Adaptation Fund made to adopt the International Aid Transparency Initiative standards this year may be a step in the right direction. There is a particular need for information on the amount of finance that has been disbursed to recipients in developing countries. Better information will allow us to better understand the likely impacts and effectiveness of increasingly established climate funds.

Who’s ready for climate finance?

Richard Calland (Africa Climate Finance Hub) and Smita Nakhooda (ODI)

Is it a bird or is it a plane? The question of what ‘readiness’ for climate finance involves has attracted a great deal of attention and debate, particularly since the Green Climate Fund is supposed to channel $100 billion a year by 2020 for climate action and policy in developing countries.

Despite various efforts from a number of international bodies such as the UNDP, there is little consensus about the matter. Is it a process or an event? This is a yes or no question: you are either ready or you are not. Either way, how on earth do you measure it (or should you even try to do so)?

There have been inevitable levels of ambivalence from potential recipient countries. They welcome the idea of finance that will put them in a better position to use the funds, given the complexity of accessing climate finance, but they are also wary of more red-tape that will absorb time and effort, and end up looking like ‘conditionality’. If you’re not ‘ready’, you may not be ‘certified’ fit for receiving climate finance.

In an effort both to better understand what climate finance readiness funding might usefully entail and, more importantly, what the needs of potential recipient countries might be, researchers from ODI and the Africa Climate Finance Hub spent a year talking to people in three Southern African countries – Namibia, Tanzania and Zambia. We began this work in partnership with GIZ and with support from the German government.

Because every place has unique socio-economic, political and institutional conditions, our starting premise was that any assessment of country readiness should take the ‘3 Rs’ into account:

  • be RELATIVE to a country’s socioeconomic and geopolitical characteristics;
  • be RESPONSIVE to the country’s particular needs, priorities, and challenges – and therefore flexible;
  • be REASONABLE, factoring in key national issues and constraints, and thus identifying the practical steps that can be taken.

All three countries are seasoned recipients of official development assistance (known as ODA), and acutely attuned to the power-play that can quickly subsume conversations about who gets what, when and how. As one finance ministry official put it: ‘we will invest in getting ready for climate finance, but only if we can see that the investment will be worthwhile’. The subtext is: will readiness finance really benefit potential recipients?

From our fieldwork, we gained a number of insights into how readiness finance might cohere with the other efforts that countries are making to address the challenge of climate change.

We considered in-country processes and institutions responsible and necessary for planning for climate change and programming associated finance. We also stressed the importance of what we term ‘aptitude’ – by which we mean more than just the exhausted notion of ‘capacity’, but rather ‘mindset’ and the institutional convictions that are required to really grapple with the tough politics of climate action and its associated political economy. Finally we looked at systems to access and spend climate finance – the sourcing as well as the receipt of climate finance and whether funds are being spent well, in order to achieve intended climate related objectives.

Countries are struggling to align action that is focused directly at climate change with broader national strategies for economic development. The threat posed by climate change may appear less direct, and is certainly more nuanced, but is no less dangerous for long-term prosperity. Readiness support could help countries make better links between “climate” strategies and their development finance plans. For example, readiness support could help governments improve the quality of the data that they need to understand the nature and trajectory of stresses and changes in key economic sectors and the risks these pose for proposed investments.

We found, as many others have, that countries struggle to co-ordinate efforts across departments and agencies. Institutions to support the realisation of climate policies and strategies are emerging, and usually include some formal space for the representation of the various ministries and stakeholders who will need to be involved in implementation. For example, the proposed National Climate Change and Development Council in Zambia will draw together the ministries of environment, finance, infrastructure/public works, mines, energy and water, the Office of the Vice President with its disaster management unit and, most likely, the Zambian Meteorological department, while also engaging civil society and private sector representatives. Similarly the process for developing the Namibian Climate Policy and Strategy has involved consultation with other units of government through a National Climate Change Committee.

But in practice, coordination between activities and within planning processes has been challenging, often lacking sufficient mandate, capacity or incentives. Our studies found that there may be implicit or explicit competition for access to funding, and enhanced political profile. Readiness finance might be used to enable more effective coordination, but there is a need to better understand these underlying dynamics so that support can be well targeted.

While developing countries are taking important steps to integrate climate change into their economic development strategies, in many countries further work is required to enhance alignment between emergent climate response strategies, and existing investment and finance priorities.

A step forward could be to agree that readiness for climate finance is neither a plane nor a bird. But investments in climate finance readiness efforts can support enabling activities within countries that allow climate finance to be used to realise a ‘paradigm-shift’ towards climate compatible development strategies.

REDD+ finance: where next?

Marigold Norman, Forest Trends and Charlene Watson, ODI

In bringing together the views of a number of initiatives tracking REDD+ finance, this series has highlighted why there isn’t a single aggregate figure for global REDD+ finance flowing. Despite this, we are increasingly able to assess where finance is coming from, how it flows through different channels and funds to recipient countries and eventually to REDD+ projects and activities on the ground. But knowledge remains incomplete and we are still faced with challenges and gaps that make it difficult to make comprehensive and conclusive remarks about the state of REDD+ finance.

Continued concerted efforts are needed to change this and we identify three steps that can pave a way forward to a better understanding of REDD+ finance:

1. Develop capacity and expertise for in-country REDD+ finance tracking to improve reporting and effective REDD+ finance spend.

Monitoring REDD+ finance allows us to evaluate REDD+ and REDD+ spend. Funding gaps become more obvious as a more comprehensive picture emerges; as it is possible to see which regions in-country and REDD+ activities are underfunded and where money can be more strategically spent. It is also important to link expenditures to actual impacts to evaluate successes and failures and help determine how REDD+ finance can be effectively scaled up in the medium to long-term.

Few countries have centralised systems for tracking climate finance that arrives through a number of channels and instruments. REDD+ finance is no exception. Supporting the appropriate institutions for REDD+ finance tracking could include determining the right combination of civil society, academic and governmental institutions for this role as well as stronger collaborations with in-country REDD+ Focal Points to consolidate and report national data to the REDD+ Partnership’s Voluntary REDD+ Database (VRD). Forest Trends’ REDDX initiative, for example, has started to do this by working with local civil society partner organizations and REDD+ Focal Points to promote longer term in-country tacking capacity and more comprehensive data reported back to the REDD+ Partnership’s VRD.

2. Establish broader discourse and develop a protocol through which private finance for REDD+ can be better understood and tracked.

It is increasingly clear that we must involve a variety of private sector actors in discussions on REDD+ finance if we are to develop a better idea of how to attract private sector capital at scale, while also more effectively tracking private sector finance. Improvements can be made through aligning with wider existing climate finance tracking efforts which have made more progress than in the REDD+ space.

3. Take proactive steps towards understanding needs to track REDD+ finance under a globally integrated REDD+ mechanism, as well as understanding how REDD+ fits within emerging climate finance funds such as the Green Climate Fund.

The long term success of REDD+ (in terms of policy and leveraging additional finance) will depend on more standardized approaches to monitoring, reporting and evaluation which link expenditure to actual impact. Looking towards a potential United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) REDD+ mechanism, the potential inclusion of REDD+ in the Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) Registry, or a possible REDD+ window under the Green Climate Fund, there will be a clear need for a common reporting framework for REDD+ finance. Taking proactive steps and encouraging contributor and recipient countries to track what actually happened with REDD+ finance helps measure impacts and evaluate successes in a comparable way, and is likely to facilitate these future possibilities for REDD+ activities.

The road ahead

No REDD+ finance tracking institution or initiative is, or claims to be, comprehensive on its own. This series has been a first attempt to bring together a community of practice tracking aspects of REDD+ finance. It is critical that we continue to expand this community to learn from one another and work together to more effectively track and record the global state of REDD+ finance.

In addition to improving the way that REDD+ finance is monitored and tracked, more emphasis should be placed on sharing experiences and lessons with wider efforts to track climate finance and development aid.  Gaining clarity over where money is going, through whom and how fast, is a first step to ensuring that the money does what it should, where it should. If donors and recipients of climate finance design transparent, comparable and accessible financial accounting systems, we will be able to more effectively track and monitor for accountability at a global or national level, by government or civil society.

This series of blogs on REDD+ finance intends to create a forum for debate and exchange of ideas. It should not be understood to reflect the views of Forest Trends, REDDX, ODI or Climate Funds Update.

REDD+ Finance: Private Lessons For The Public Sphere

Molly Peters-Stanley, Ecosystem Marketplace

Kenya’s Kasigau Corridor Project that Reduces Deforestation and forest Degradation (“REDD”) protects 200,000 hectares of endangered forest between the Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks. The Surui Forest Carbon Project protects 32,000 hectares of endangered forest in the Brazilian Amazon. Cambodia’s Oddar Meanchey REDD+ Project protects 64,000 hectares of endangered forest in the northwest province of the same name. The world’s largest REDD project – the Mai Ndombe REDD+ Project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo – will protect almost 250,000 hectares and dispatch with approximately 175 million tonnes of carbon over its lifetime.

Beyond the fact that each of these endeavors harness carbon markets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by saving endangered rainforest, each of them has been spearheaded by private initiatives working closely with national, state, and local governments, which means each has managed to identify risk mitigation tools – that appeal to both the private and public sectors.

Each, therefore, is ripe with lessons for anyone looking to develop REDD interventions that will make the leap from “project” to “program” – i.e. from private and local, to public and jurisdictional. Admittedly, there are still gaps in information on finance and activities at the project level, but, Ecosystem Marketplace has been tracking private sector projects since 2005, reporting forest carbon data on the Forest Carbon Portal and in Ecosystem Marketplace’s annual State of the Forest Carbon Markets reports designed to explore these lessons and results.

Through focusing tracking on the project level we have found that the private sector was more likely to support projects that reported at least one revenue stream other than carbon offset sales, like sustainably commodity (including Fairtrade-certified) sales revenue or donor government contributions. The presence of additional non-carbon revenues suggests to private sector actors that the project is more likely to be financially viable in the case that carbon markets are not a long-lived source of project financing. Our more recent findings illustrate that private dollars are also “mobile” – with businesses preferring to catalyze new activities in new locations, which is not inherently conducive to large-scale, long-term REDD activities.

Based on these findings, is the profit motive alone too capricious to support and expand REDD efforts? Should the burden of forest conservation instead rest solely with forests’ traditional public sector custodians? In reality and as reported last week by UNEP FI, seasoned stakeholders conclude that both public and private actors must be at the table if the world is to support existing forestry and land use carbon projects (total of $2.2 – $5.4 billion over an unspecified timeframe, according to Ecosystem Marketplace’s 2012 survey data; cut deforestation in half between 2015 and 2020 ($75 – $300 billion according to Resources for the Future estimates); or protect the world’s hectares that are currently under threat ($1 trillion, based on 55.5 million hectares that will be lost between 2010 and 2020, as estimated by WWF, multiplied by average price per hectare paid for REDD offsets in 2011 [$20/ha] based on Ecosystem Marketplace data). Regardless of your metric of choice, the price tag is too high to ignore anyone with insights into how a significant source of finance can be incentivized to act.

To this end, private project developers that have honed their business models to become market “survivors” provide proof of concept for the idea of internationally-financed conservation forestry. They have an inherent understanding of why the private sector steps in – or backs out of – forest finance, learned over now-decades of direct experience with private sector stakeholders. They also boast first-hand experience with national and regional government approval processes and gaps in capacity – often including a deep understanding of the extent of local governments’ capacity for enforcement.

Many actors already understand the value of lessons gleaned from these private pilot actions, which is why the Verified Carbon Standard and the American Carbon Registry are working with national governments on Jurisdictional Nested REDD (JNR) that ensure existing projects can be absorbed into national accounting programs. It’s why the Norwegian government is even helping to pilot nested programs around the world.

And it’s why Forest Trends’ Ecosystem Marketplace and REDD Expenditures Tracking initiatives are tracking payments – both public and private, top-down and bottom-up – to uncover “sweet spots” where emerging government REDD programs have successfully engaged the private sector as investor, implementer, or (in an ideal world) both. Private lessons for the public sphere to increase private investment, therefore, include (but are not limited to):

  • Due consideration and recognition of private actors’ early action via public support of credited project-level activities. Indications that governments will support early action REDD projects (via “buyer of last resort” credit purchase guarantees or other purchase programs) would help de-risk new investment or projects in need of re-financing, and could be implemented to reward those already exploring REDD implementation on the ground, in tandem with the development of up-scaled REDD approaches. Such approaches have successfully been taken in other sectors in some countries, as explored in this report.
  • Enacting policies that favor “zero-deforestation” or low carbon products/commodities by recognizing products sourced from verified REDD projects, activities or areas.
  • Engaging with private actors to explore “carbon-linked” funding mechanisms, like REDD/carbon revenue bonds, developing new types of public-private contract structures to deliver low cost REDD emissions reductions. Such efforts would leverage the early experience of project developers managing relationships with donor governments supporting emerging jurisdictional nested REDD programs.

Unless policymakers are willing to incorporate more lessons from the companies that are already buying REDD project offsets or from the developers who are creating them, they run the risk of re-creating the Kyoto Protocol’s sub-optimal treatment of forest carbon offsets. The world needs a mechanism that incorporates tested methods that work. And that requires more funding for pilot projects and more efforts to harvest existing projects for insights that can be broadcasted from the boardroom to Bonn.

This series of blogs on REDD+ finance intends to create a forum for debate and exchange of ideas, this blog reflects the opinions of Molly Peters-Stanley of Ecosystem Marketplace, and should not be understood to reflect the views of ODI or Climate Funds Update.

REDD+ Finance: What do we know about the private sector contribution?

Iain Henderson & Jacinto Coello, UNEP FI

There is broad consensus that private finance and investment are needed for REDD+ to meet its climate change mitigation potential in the medium to long-term. Those who are familiar with REDD+ will have heard countless variations of an equation that currently does not balance.  Annual REDD+ additional investment needs are estimated to be in the order of tens of billions of dollars, yet the current sums available – which are largely public funds- are a fraction of this number. The hope and expectation is that private sector capital will conveniently fill the gap, et voila! The burden placed upon private capital to balance the books has also been creeping higher over the past few years. REDD+ is not only more complex and expensive than first thought five years ago but public sector finances have also been decimated by successive financial crises in every corner of the globe.

The anticipated flows of private sector finance have yet to materialize. REDD+ finance remains dominated by public sector flows focused on the capacity building and enabling conditions that are the foundation stone of REDD+ and which are vital to catalyze private sector capital. For private sector capital to flow at scale, these public sector funds must be used strategically to improve the financial attractiveness of REDD+ for the private sector. Private sector investment is driven by expectations of future returns and these are currently too low and opaque given the risks and uncertainties compared to other potential investment opportunities.

Despite this broad consensus on the need for private finance and investment in REDD+, very little is known about current flows of private sector finance into REDD+, and what little is known shows that current amounts being channeled are close to insignificant. Difficulties in estimating and tracking volumes of private sector capital flowing into REDD+ arise from a variety of reasons.

There is no standardized definition describing what REDD+ finance or investment constitutes. Should investment into activities that contribute to REDD+, but aren’t directly linked to REDD+ verified emission reductions (VERs) count? Examples might include ‘climate-smart’ agricultural related to drivers of deforestation, green bonds where proceeds are used for ‘forest-friendly’ activities or corporates investing in medium or long-term supply chain security.

Different types of finance are often considered as equal. However, grants, short-term loans, equity investments, ‘in-kind’ payments and carbon off-take agreements all differ in how, why and when they are used. Aggregating these numbers can also potentially confuse and inflate the volume of private sector capital flows through double or triple counting and it also hampers attempts to identify financial bottlenecks at different points in the lifecycle of an activity.

It is also important that we use greater precision when describing sources of finance. ‘Institutional investors’ such as pension funds are one of the largest sources of private sector capital. As the ‘big beasts’ of the private sector financial world- they are sometimes referred to as one of the great hopes for the REDD+ related financial ills we currently face. They can allocate the ‘patient capital’ that REDD+ needs and have trillions of dollars under management. However, in order to unlock this huge pool of potential investment, we must first acknowledge the fact that most pension funds can’t currently allocate to anything resembling a ‘REDD+ investment’. The majority of pension fund capital is invested in liquid, listed securities yet many of the investment opportunities in the REDD+ space are through unlisted private equity or debt vehicles that a large amount of pension funds can’t allocate capital to at the required scale. Unlike publicly listed companies, private companies also have fewer legal obligations to report their finances which further compounds efforts to track financial flows.

Tracking private sector finance into REDD+ will be a daunting task until some of the above issues are addressed. Currently, however, more efforts should be placed in better understanding the role that private climate finance can play in contributing to REDD+ through some of the following activities:

  • Engage with and involve the private sector in a constructive discussion on REDD+ to understand what the enabling conditions are that would attract private sector capital at scale. This can be done during the development of national REDD+ strategies.
  • Develop clear definitions and parameters for what constitutes REDD+ private sector finance and investment.
  • Appreciate that the finance landscape is extremely varied and different types and sources of capital have different uses at different times. This is a key step in connecting the vast pools of private sector capital with the activities that need funding.

UNEP FI is supporting efforts to engage the private sector in general and the private financial sector in particular in REDD+ at both the national and international level.  The ultimate aim of this engagement is to reshape the way forest assets are currently exploited and help the transition towards more sustainable land-use patterns.

This series of blogs on REDD+ finance intends to create a forum for debate and exchange of ideas, this blog reflects the opinions of Iain Henderson & Jacinto Coello of UNEP FI, and should not be understood to reflect the views of ODI, Forest Trends, REDDX or Climate Funds Update.

REDD+ finance: Lessons from the US

Jeff Metcalfe, Tropical Forest Group

The Tropical Forest Group has been tracking the REDD+ finance flowing from the U.S. in its U.S. REDD+ Finance Database (USRFD). This contains more than 800 data points for REDD or sustainable forestry reported by United States agencies with data transcribed from public documents. Although it is not linked to the US government, the USRFD is the only centralised way to assess US REDD+ finance from USAID, the Treasury Department and the US State Department.

Different US agencies have different reporting styles and different ways for classifying expenditures, which presents a challenge when synthesising and analysing reports in the data base. For a variety of reasons, the Treasury and State Departments are required to provide detailed reports and a list of expenditures by country, while USAID provides more general overviews even though it often dispenses more money. Further, since finance flows from multiple agencies, redundancies are common and estimates can be revised after they have been posted. Rarely is there a comparable picture of what is being spent.

Still, we can draw general conclusions. Data from 2008 to 2011 shows US REDD+ finance focused on forest nations with large forests and relatively high GDP and the smallest overall capacity gaps for executing national forest monitoring systems that can link with an international REDD+ framework. Several factors are likely to influence spending, but the trends may be because the US has focused its support on countries that can implement projects and there can be more certainty on the return.

While big picture trends emerge from spending, it is very difficult to link finance to impact. Tracking REDD+ finance would be much more effective if donor nations would strive to:

  • Report in specific line items with explicitly stated goals;
  • Provide summary information and links to reports that show where and how the climate funds were or are being used;
  • Work with recipient countries in reporting.

The Global Challenge

The US situation is hardly unique, and pinning down what REDD+ finance is can be tough given its variety of forms no matter which donor country you are examining.  REDD+ finance might be channelled toward strengthening partnerships between local people and forest governments in one instance, and developing methods and technologies for forest carbon inventory and mapping in another.

This creates difficulties as many readiness activities are not fundamentally different from activities funded historically in forest conservation. Actors therefore count different things as REDD+ finance. Pulling apart what is REDD+ finance or how much finance can be attributed to any one activity is complex as much funding arrives with multiple objectives, or as part of national country programs.

Multiple Channels

Finance for REDD+ is also delivered in many different ways. Some countries, such as Norway, have a number of high value bilateral agreements and also tend to focus on emission-reductions as an outcome, such as for the Amazon Fund. The UK, in contrast, funds REDD+ mostly through multilateral REDD+ funds such as the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility or Forest Investment Program.  The instruments through which finance is delivered can also differ, including: grants, loans, equity, loan forgiveness, insurance, and private investments, which affects the way finance is accounted for (is a grant the same value as a loan?).

These channels don’t all converge to a central point in country either. Forest, environment, or agriculture ministries, international or local NGOs, and other various intermediaries can be engaged as intermediaries and in implementing REDD+ projects. Where centralised reporting does not exist or function effectively, it is hard to establish the total amounts of REDD+ finance arrive in recipient countries as no one is counting everything.

Why it doesn’t always add up

Aside from making aggregate figures on REDD+ finance elusive, variety in activities, channels and reporting of REDD+ finance, leads to discrepancies between contributor and recipient countries.  The Voluntary REDD+ Database of the REDD+ Partnership, for example, reports US$3.35 billion from contributor countries through bilateral flows, while recipients report only US$1.44 billion. This occurs because the Voluntary REDD+ Database receives information from both bottom-up and top-down, whereas, most other initiatives seek just one data source.

While there may be political motivations for contributors to report significant amounts of spending, the differences are also likely to be a function of large bureaucracies not speaking the same language or following the same reporting process. There is also, often, a significant time-lag that exists between when a contributor country declares money spent (typically when it is allocated) and when a recipient nation recognizes it’s delivery (typically when it lands in a bank account). The regularity with which it is reported in a REDD+ finance database also comes into play. This makes it difficult to square reports across nations at any given time. Countries’ different fiscal years compound the problem.

REDD infographic - data updates and collection

Despite formidable challenges, the ability to more accurately track climate finance is critical to moving REDD+ forward. Being able to accurately track REDD+ finance also enables us to link expenditures to actual impacts so we can assess the effectiveness of a particular strategy, something critical to evolving REDD+ at this relatively early stage in the game. Ultimately, REDD+ finance, as well as climate finance more generally, will depend on trust and accountability.  Without a way to accurately measure progress against commitments, neither is on solid footing.

This series of blogs on REDD+ finance intends to create a forum for debate and exchange of ideas, this blog reflects the opinions of Jeff Metcalfe of the Tropical Forest Group, and should not be understood to reflect the views of ODI, Forest Trends, REDDX or Climate Funds Update.

REDD+ finance: What you see isn’t always what you get

Alice Harrison, Transparency International

A colleague recently likened his experience tracking climate and REDD+ money in Mexico to an archaeological dig. Little by little, fragments of your object begin to reveal themselves, but not without a significant amount of time, resources and tenacity.

At Transparency International (TI) we have been monitoring climate finance flows in six countries – of which four are REDD+- recipients. Gaining clarity over what money is going where is a first step to ensuring that the money does what it should, where it should, and doesn’t surreptitiously slip into the wrong bank account, or get lost among the myriad of climate finance projects currently proposed or underway.

Transparency is like a prophylactic against negligent or corrupt spending. The trouble with REDD+ is that – in experience – transparency has been fairly poor. Often this is due not to REDD+ systems or institutions per se, but broader issues such as access to information and budget classification.

Take the situation in Kenya. The Kenya Forest Service is responsible for managing a combined grant of US $400,000 from the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and UN-REDD to develop Kenya’s REDD+ Readiness Plan. Information provided on the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife’s website confirms this and provides an outline of the activities to be undertaken under the readiness plan. The plan itself is missing from the site though, as is a more detailed breakdown of expenditure lines.

The missing parts of the puzzle are hard to come by. Access to information is provided for in Kenya’s 2010 constitution, but in the absence of accompanying laws it remains somewhat of a hollow promise – requests for information can be met with silence or long delays. At times our team found it easier to look for information through other means such as identifying informers in the relevant ministries.

Mexico, meanwhile, boasts one of the world’s strongest access to information laws, with an institutional architecture on-hand to enforce it. The problem TI staff encountered there, however, was that while government bodies responded to their information requests, they simply didn’t have the relevant information. This is due in large to an inadequate system of budget classification. There is no single database to distinguish REDD-related expenditure from other categories of public money, including adaptation finance and development aid. This means that it is hard to trace the journey that REDD+ money takes through the national budget, let alone its impact.

Hurdles like these are not exceptional, they are to be found in a great deal of climate finance-recipient countries. Many donor states also have a poor track record for accounting for REDD+ finance in a clear, timely and accessible way. One has to wonder – if an anti-corruption organisation like Transparency International struggles to ascertain where and how this money is being spent, how do its beneficiaries stand a chance of holding their leaders to account for it?

Opacity can be explained by many things. Sometimes it’s born of habit – the continuation of a historical culture of privacy. Often it is a capacity issue, with government agencies lacking the staff or the resources to consolidate data and make it publicly accessible. Regardless of cause or intent, however, a lack of transparency can serve to shield behaviour that is irresponsible, illegal or corrupt.

REDD+ money is a scarce resource. Ensuring that it is spent fairly and wisely will require carefully watching the movement of money, scrutinising the rationale for its allocation, and raising the red flag when things go awry. There is a great deal of untapped potential in citizen monitoring. If members of the public are given access to better data on REDD+ spending, they can act as watchdogs to help ensure its effectiveness.

Before this can happen, we need national registries that disaggregate REDD+ from other monetary flows. We also need full transparency of information for all projects, and proactive as opposed to reactive disclosure. Without this, there is greater risk that REDD+ won’t work.

Read more about Transparency International’s work tracking climate finance here, and its REDD+ risk assessments in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Vietnam here.

This series of blogs on REDD+ finance intends to create a forum for debate and exchange of ideas, this blog reflects the opinions of Alice Harrison of Transparency International, and should not be understood to reflect the views of ODI, REDDX or Climate Funds Update. 

REDD+ finance: who’s counting?

Charlene Watson, ODI and Marigold Norman, Forest Trends

Finance for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation plus conservation (REDD+) activities has been flowing for at least five years now. But what can we really say about how much finance there has been, where it has come from, where it is going, and what it is being spent on? Climate Funds Update and Forest Trends’ REDDX has been promoting cross-pollination among various REDD+ finance initiatives in an attempt to answer these questions. This is the first in a series of blogs where several initiatives reporting on REDD+ finance will contribute.

As we can dramatically slow climate change by saving tropical forests, developed countries have pledged billions to pilot REDD+ and create accounting mechanisms that will support preparation for REDD+ in the longer term. No one, however, really knows how much of that money has actually been deployed – let alone where and how. With more information on REDD+ finance, a better understanding of REDD+ finance flows can help national governments assess existing gaps and direct REDD+ investments to the most efficient mechanisms and activities with the greatest returns.

While several efforts are underway to try to track REDD+ finance, no two efforts seem to come up with the same numbers. The REDD+ Partnership’s Voluntary REDD+ Database, for example, reports a global total of US$6.27 billion in contributions between 2006 and 2022, while the Climate Funds Update, a project of the Overseas Development Institute, reports US$4.2 billion pledged through dedicated climate funds and initiatives since 2008.

Why the Discrepancy?

Following billions across the globe is no easy task; we know this from efforts to track climate finance more broadly. Tracking requires sustained and on-going efforts to source, validate, and present information in a comparable way. The Climate Knowledge Brokers Group is an exemplary initiative working towards this end. Current discrepancies in REDD+ finance numbers reflect different scale, data sources, and focus of the stage and type of finance, different definitions to count ‘REDD+’ activities, and different terminology for whether the money has been spent or not.

For example as can be seen from the Scale Reported diagram, the Climate Funds Update tracks finance at both the global and national levels, identifying a total global figure of US$1.5 billion in ‘approvals’ in REDD+ finance. This flows through dedicated climate funds and initiatives such as the Amazon Fund, Congo Basin Forest Fund, Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and UN-REDD Programme. REDDX on the other hand, does not specifically track global levels of REDD+ finance, instead focusing on public and private ‘commitments’ and ‘disbursements’ at the national level, to present in-depth information on how finance flows from global contributors to the ground in thirteen countries across Latin America, Africa, and Asia Pacific (with national data currently reported for Brazil, Ecuador, Ghana, and Vietnam).  

Given that no initiative claims to be comprehensive, the existing REDD+ finance tracking initiatives can and should play complementary roles. They will only succeed by working together and building up a more comprehensive picture of REDD+ finance.

Clarifying complexity

The first achievement of working together will be in clarifying the complexity by working out each initiatives niche within REDD+ finance tracking. The main stages of REDD+ finance reported diagram illustrates how different initiatives retain different focus. Climate Funds Update and REDDX, for example, track flows of finance and report information on contributors, climate funds, recipients, and in-country REDD+ projects and/or activities. Whereas, the REDD Desk has focussed on in-depth analysis and information on the main REDD+ contributors, recipients, and projects/activities highlighting significant political, legal, and historical context for REDD+ in twenty-two countries. The REDD+ Partnership’s Voluntary REDD+ Database is different again, providing information voluntarily reported by contributors, climate funds, and primary recipients including some information on intended REDD+ projects and activities. And the US REDD Finance Database details information on US contributions to all projects and activities that are related to REDD+.

REDD infographic - stages and scale

This blog series will highlight some of the persistent challenges in tracking REDD+ finance and the ways that initiatives are working to overcome these responding to some of questions posed at the outset. Many of these challenges apply to cross-cutting efforts to monitor and account for climate finance. But there is a clear need to build up a more comprehensive and up-to-date picture of REDD+ finance in particular because the large number of voluntary initiatives monitoring REDD+ presents an opportunity to consolidate information and create a more complete picture of what is happening on REDD+ finance, demonstrating how initiatives can collaboratively work together, and initiating a discussion around broader gaps and needs. Over the coming weeks we will ask:

  • Who counts what as REDD+ finance? We will offer recommendations for tracking initiatives to harmonise their approaches so that data is comparable.
  • Who’s open about REDD+ finance? We will examine efforts to bring more transparency to REDD+ finance, both nationally and internationally.
  • What do we know about private sector REDD+ finance? We will consider options to improve our understanding of the role of private actors.

Part of the responsibility to build a more comprehensive picture of REDD+ finance rests with the growing number of initiatives tracking it. Through individually investing in their niche REDD+ tracking areas, while at the same time working together to assess collaborative results, initiatives such as REDDX and Climate Funds Update can reduce confusion to reveal a more accurate and comprehensive picture of the global state of REDD+ finance.

This series of blogs on REDD+ finance intends to create a forum for debate and exchange of ideas through inviting external authors to post their opinions. It should not be understood to reflect the views of ODI or Climate Funds Update.