Nature and Biodiversity

How green accountability can create more equitable climate finance

Boys survey the damage caused by floodwaters in Bamako August 29, 2013. Twenty-four people were killed in Mali's riverside capital Bamako on Wednesday when torrential rains provoked flash floods that washed away homes in several neighbourhoods, a government minister said. RECould green accountability help communities in places like Mali, which are already experiencing catastrophic effects of climate change?UTERS/Joe Penney (MALI - Tags: DISASTER ENVIRONMENT). green accountability

Could green accountability help communities in places like Mali, which are already experiencing catastrophic effects of climate change? Image: REUTERS/Joe Penney

Blair Glencorse
Founder and Executive Director, The Accountability Lab
Sanjeeta Pant
Programs and Learning Manager, The Accountability Lab
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Sustainable Finance and Investment

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  • Despite safeguarding 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity, globally Indigenous groups only receive 1% of climate finance.
  • We are in danger of allowing local elites or rapacious corporations to co-opt the trillion dollars now flowing into lower and middle-income countries to avert climate disaster.
  • A green accountabililty model can help communities participate in and ensure greater inclusion and equity of climate finance within their societies.

“Severe droughts and rains are becoming worse every year (…) leading to displacement and conflict,” Samba Cissé a civic activist from Mopti told us during a recent visit to Mali. “Young people are joining jihadists because their livelihoods in agriculture have been destroyed.”

Mali is a country on the frontlines of the climate crisis. In places like West Africa the effects of climate change are visible everywhere and the impacts are already catastrophic.

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Almost a trillion dollars is now flowing into lower and middle-income countries like Mali to avert climate disaster. While this is not yet nearly enough to deal with the problems, the public and private sectors are mobilizing unprecedented levels of financing to address this issue. But the bigger problem is that people like Samba are being left out.

For example, despite safeguarding 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity, globally Indigenous groups only receive 1% of climate finance. We are in danger of repeating the same mistakes made before through which local elites or rapacious corporations have co-opted these massive financial flows and less than 10% of climate funding is prioritized for local activities. Aid-giving institutions have also not done enough to demonstrate to governments, businesses and citizens that there are different and more effective ways of channelling climate resources through “green accountability”.

Green accountability creates systemic ways for people to have a voice and role in the climate decisions that most affect their lives. It places citizens and civil society at the heart of climate finance to direct funding, implement solutions and hold decision-makers accountable for effective and equitable climate finance and action. It is a process through which communities on the front lines of the climate crisis can co-create and oversee climate prevention, mitigation and adaptation efforts; reduce corruption in climate-related programming; and ensure greater inclusion and equity within their societies.

Indigenous Communities Protect 80% Of All Biodiversity
Despite safeguarding 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity, globally Indigenous groups only receive 1% of climate finance. Image: Statista

The basis for a more coherent green accountability framework exists in the Paris Agreement, which enshrines the principles of country ownership, transparency, and public participation, and recognizes the rights of Indigenous peoples, local communities and vulnerable groups, as well as gender equality. Article 13 of the Agreement establishes an “Enhanced Transparency Framework” to build trust among parties and promote effective implementation, providing the ability to track progress towards climate goals.

But this does not go far enough in terms of putting in place broad, global standards for accountability, monitoring the transparency of climate finance or ensuring meaningful participation of communities in this process.

The World Economic Forum, among other institutions, is looking into guidelines for accountable climate finance, with a view to ensuring adequate data synthesis and publication to improve decision-making; building capacity to develop green accountability approaches; and structuring mechanisms and standards that can more effectively demonstrate and assess progress or shortfalls. The World Bank is also reimagining The Global Partnership for Social Accountability to lift up the profile of green accountability in climate finance discussions and foster innovation among CSOs and governments.

Governments need to be integrated into these approaches at all levels, from local to national; and across crucial partner institutions that work on accountability issues, such as ombuds agencies and audit offices. The climate crisis is bringing different kinds of government agencies into conversations about inclusion and development. Reporting roles, authorities and lines of responsibilities need to be unambiguous; and citizens must be provided with the opportunity to provide feedback at every step.

Where in the world does the average person emit the most carbon dioxide (CO2) each year?
Where in the world does the average person emit the most carbon dioxide (CO2) each year? Image: Our World in Data

It is clear that climate solutions are more effective and sustainable when communities are at the heart of design and oversight. For example, in Glasgow, a new tool called After The Pandemic (ATP) allows community members to drop pins on an interactive map to suggest how sustainable approaches can be integrated into problem-solving and suggest improvements. This has led to many new projects in the city including efforts to redesign roads and to deliver “pop-up parks” to residents’ doorsteps.

In Kenya, the World Bank and others have supported a locally-led climate facility with a particular focus on marginalized groups. A household survey suggests this programme has enabled a dramatic increase in access to clean water in sustainable ways.

Climate Assemblies (CA), through which governments provide the space for citizens to learn about how climate change impacts their societies and then propose concrete actions to address this challenge, are becoming increasingly popular. In France, a CA came up with some highly ambitious reforms. While not all of these were implemented, it shifted the debate around climate policy and action.

In Hanoi, the government wants to quadruple green space per capita by 2025 and, after consulting with citizens, is partnering with a social enterprise to build playgrounds out of recycled materials. Elsewhere, Green Participatory Budgeting in Lisbon is well known as an example of what is possible when a municipal government commits to citizen engagement on these issues. Since 2019, Lisbon has committed to nearly 2,000 crowdsourced climate actions suggested by citizens, including cycling lanes, water capture efforts and tree planting.

The climate crisis is real and people like Samba are suffering its worst effects. But there is also an opportunity to address climate challenges by using this moment to fundamentally transform the way governments serve their constituents, to rebuild the trust between citizens and people in power, and to renew the global social contract.

June 2023’s Summit for a New Global Financing Pact brings together critical decision-makers globally to discuss a more equitable global financial system. It presents the perfect opportunity to hardwire green accountability into the global climate finance system at every point, from policies and programmes to spending, before it’s too late.

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