This article was originally published on the CFR website on October 26, 2018
Many developing country governments are seeking to access international climate funds. For the island states of the Asia Pacific region, their small size and limited resources hinder their capacity to do so. That’s why pooling resources with a Regional Implementing Entity (RIE) can make sense and can accelerate countries’ ability to access international funds. Espen Ronneberg, Climate Change Advisor for the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme (SPREP) caught up with CDKN’s Mairi Dupar to explain what regional entities like SPREP can offer.
MD: How does SPREP help national governments in the Asia-Pacific region to access climate finance?
ER: SPREP is a treaty-based organization of all Pacific Islands and Territories, with five additional members: Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, France, and USA. Established in 1991, our remit is environmental monitoring and governance and pollution control. On climate finance, our work supports the 14 independent Pacific Island countries.
As an RIE, we see our role as both helping countries in the region to get projects over the line in the short term, and also to assist countries to achieve their status as National Implementing Entities (NIEs), should they wish to do so. For the most part, countries have put forward projects through us or through a United Nations agency while they get their house in order for NIE status. We have provided guidance for our member countries on how they can successfully apply to become NIEs.
MD: In your experience, what are some of the chief opportunities and challenges for countries in developing investment-grade climate adaptation projects?
ER: We hold regular consultation meetings with the member countries and we make regular calls for concepts so that we can understand what the countries’ priorities are and what they want us to work on. We have a very rigorous quality control system to ensure we don’t put forward any projects that aren’t solid and thoroughly consulted on.
Most importantly, we ensure that project concepts have a convincing climate change narrative – this is what the Funds require. If we can’t see there is a good climate change story we’re pretty sure the AF or GCF Board won’t pursue a project further: this always leads to an informed discussion between us and our member countries!
MD: Do you have any examples of how you’ve helped countries find a strong climate change angle?
ER: We’ve been getting some project ideas that are about other sustainable development issues and it requires some work to find the climate change angle. For example, one country proposed a ‘rescue opportunity’ for its agriculture sector: crop diversification and increased marketing.
We encouraged the project proponents to look at the idea again, through a climate change lens. We asked: why is the continuation of agriculture on this island so important? They said: well there is soil erosion, and it’s expensive to bring in imported food from another island. By highlighting these problems explicitly, we identified the climate issues that would be addressed through the crop diversification and marketing elements of the programme. The proposed interventions would reduce emissions from boats coming with supplies, they would prevent soil erosion that harms the reef (a key ecosystem that helps create resilience against climate change impacts), the activities would enhance sustainable water management in a changing climate. Through this lens, the concept became more suitable for developing as a project proposal to submit to an international climate fund.
MD: You mention that part of your role is in helping countries prepare for NIE status. What are you doing to build national capacity?
We also find that national governments need capacity-building support in undertaking the various assessments required by the funds at project preparation stage.
You have to follow the requirement of the funds – some countries may not have expertise to do the environmental impact assessment, gender study and cost benefit analysis. [The AF offers small technical assistance readiness grants in these areas.]
So we’ve been looking at capacity supplementation from ADB where we could deploy extra expertise, for example on Environmental Impact Assessment and Social Impact Assessment, drafting of policy and regulations and so forth. For a wind power project, you need to have a particular survey done in a certain way. There are experts in the region but not in every country. So the way we did it was establish a long Roster of Experts with different expertise and we had about USD 1 million to spend on deploying them. It ranged from desk study support to physical surveying. While the ADB funding has now been depleted, we are in the process of reinvigorating this capacity supplementation programme through assistance from the Pacific Regional NDC Hub as well as the Pacific Climate Change Centre.
MD: Is there a value in bundling up national projects as part of a region-wide proposal for international funding, and if so, when?
ER: Some countries feel they can do it themselves and that’s excellent. The Cook Islands’ Ministry of Finance and Economic Management has been accredited as an NIE for the Adaptation Fund and most recently to the Green Climate Fund, and in Micronesia, the Micronesia Conservation Trust has NIE status with the Adaptation Fund. Both NIEs had projects approved at the AF’s March 2018 Board meeting – a nearly US$ 3 million project in the Cook Islands to build and implement an integrated approach to increasing capacity of remote island communities and ecosystems to adapt to disasters and climate change impacts; and a US$ 970,000 project in the Federated States of Micronesia to build ecological, social and economic resilience of communities.
Other countries have asked themselves, if they are very small: is it worth the human resource power to keep up an NIE, once it’s accredited? There are instances where it probably makes sense to bundle projects – for instance, for the atoll countries, the water issues are much the same. For some of the small countries and depending on the issue, then, it makes more sense to submit funding proposals as part of a region-wide approach.
MD: As an RIE, where do you see yourself going with capacity building and project development in the long term?
ER: I don’t think we can be 100% sure that we are doing all that is needed. At least we are providing safeguards to countries for the near to medium term. Let me give you an example: the Adaptation Fund approved another project proposal for building greater climate resilience in the Federated States of Micronesia – this one via SPREP, as the RIE. The government wants to climate-proof roads across the whole island: a coastal road is eroding and was going to be at even greater risk of sea level rise and erosion in the future. It meant relocating the existing road from the coastline and creating access roads to the coastal villages instead.
The moving of the road and upgrading of the road surface will allow the communities to be connected and to be able to take their produce to market. In the long run, the big question is whether the communities themselves have to move. That question is rather more for the long term.
The Adaptation Fund innovated an alternative, streamlined accreditation process in 2015 to enhance access to climate finance for smaller implementing entities, and has accredited three national implementing entities through the process to date – including the Micronesia Conservation Trust in the Federated States of Micronesia and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management in the Cook Islands.