Monday, January 10, 2011

Power, Responsibility, and Accountability: Re-Thinking the Legitimacy of Institutions for Climate Finance

This report seeks to ground the debate on climate finance in an objective analysis of ongoing efforts to finance mitigation and adaptation in developing countries.



Previous Versions
This report is an update of a previously released working paper

Executive Summary

The 2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit left unresolved major questions about how to fund lowcarbon development in developing countries. In a high-level political declaration—the “Copenhagen Accord”—developed countries agreed to “provide new and additional resources … approaching USD 30 billion for the period 2010–2012” and to a goal of jointly mobilizing USD 100 billion a year by 2020 from both public and private sources, to address the needs of developing countries. As the negotiations on a global climate deal continue, disagreement remains on how much of these funds will come from public or private sources and whether these billions should be delivered through new or existing institutions. There is also heated debate over whether a single centralized institution or a decentralized approach that coordinates international, regional, and national institutions would be more effective.

Although there are many variations in government positions, broadly speaking, developed countries favor a substantial role for existing institutions, such as the multilateral development banks (MDBs) that they have funded and led for the past 60 years. Developing countries prefer new institutions, arguing that existing ones favor the interests of contributor countries and have failed to deliver on promises to support poverty alleviation and sustainable development. The ongoing negotiations on a global climate deal reflect this “northsouth” gulf. Despite these differences, one thing is clear: if the institutional arrangements entrusted with managing new flows of climate finance are to succeed in raising the required resources and in investing these resources effectively, they will need to be perceived as legitimate by both contributors and recipients.

Institutional Arrangements for Climate Finance: Power, Responsibility, and Accountability

The full report seeks to ground the debate on the future of climate finance in an objective analysis of existing efforts to finance climate mitigation and adaptation in developing countries. The authors step back from the question of which institutions should be entrusted with new flows of climate finance to examine instead how governments can design a climate financial mechanism in a way that is widely perceived as legitimate. We identify three crucial dimensions of legitimacy: power, responsibility, and accountability (see Box A). While these three dimensions interrelate and overlap, we have found them to provide a useful analytical framework to analyze and guide choices in institutional design.

We review the governance structures, operational procedures, and records to date of 10 international and national financial mechanisms, with reference to these core dimensions of legitimacy, to draw lessons for future institutional arrangements (see Box B). We place special emphasis on the experiences with the Global Environment Facility (GEF), which, in operation since 1994, is the longest serving operating entity of the United Nations Framework Covention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) financial mechanism. In addition to the GEF, we review experiences from the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol, in operation since 1990, which is often referred to as a model for future funds. The remaining funds reviewed are much newer and yield more insights with regard to design, rather than operation.

We recognize that perceptions of the legitimacy of a financial mechanism are inherently subjective and that this subjectivity is revealed in the very different preferences expressed by contributor and recipient countries. We believe, however, that if governments were to discuss the dimensions of legitimacy more explicitly, the stakes and the trade-offs would become more apparent, and a more shared understanding on how to design a legitimate financial mechanism would emerge. We believe that the failure, thus far, to address the distribution of power, responsibility, and accountability more explicitly has led to a proliferation of financial mechanisms that are underfunded, which in turn leads to calls to create new mechanisms.

We recognize that perceptions of a financial mechanism’s legitimacy will also depend upon an institution’s performance—its demonstrated capacity to commit funding to investments that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience to climate change. Most of the climate financial mechanisms studied have not been operating at a scale or for a time period that would allow a full assessment of their performance. We nonetheless seek to make recommendations that could improve the design and the performance of new and existing climate financial mechanisms.

We conclude that a new global deal on climate finance is likely to significantly redistribute power, responsibility, and accountability between traditional contributor and recipient countries. Most significantly, the power of emerging economies to control climate finance mechanisms will grow, as will their responsibility and accountability for the performance of these institutions. In light of the dramatic changes in global politics and the global economy in past decades, this redistribution seems both long overdue and necessary to provide the basis for a successful global partnership on climate finance.

Conclusions and Recommendations

This is a dynamic time for climate finance, as the international community struggles to craft mechanisms that are perceived to be legitimate by all UNFCCC Parties and that are capable of funding climate-related activities efficiently and at scale. Our analysis of established and new climate financial mechanisms and the current UNFCCC negotiations leads us to conclude the following:
  • Change is coming. A new global deal on climate finance will likely reinterpret the principles that in the past have guided the design of climate finance mechanisms in a way that significantly redistributes power, responsibility, and accountability between traditional contributor and recipient countries.
  • A new balance of power, responsibility, and accountability could enhance recipient country ownership. Greater representation of developing countries on the governing bodies of international financial institutions more generally, and climate finance mechanisms more specifically, should help ensure greater emphasis on the national and local “ownership”—and thus the effectiveness—of climate finance investments.
  • A new understanding of how to balance national interests with global responsibility and accountability is required. This will require assurance that nationally driven investments contribute to global benefits in the form of net emission reductions and that investments protect the most vulnerable countries and communities.
  • New financial mechanisms—at both the global and the national level—are necessary. If the international community raises the scale of public finance necessary to move developing countries onto a low-carbon, climate-resilient pathway, the capacity and the creativity to spend these resources well will necessitate the creation of one or more new financial mechanisms at the global level and multiple nationallevel institutions.
  • Existing institutions must also be reformed. The scale of the climate change challenge and of the scale of the funding necessary to respond to that challenge will also necessitate the reform of existing financial institutions, many of which have been supporting fossil fuel–led growth and have yet to mainstream concerns about the impacts of climate change into their strategies.
  • Current negotiating positions reflect deep historical and ideological divisions—particularly between developed and developing countries—that will need to be overcome by building trust and experimenting with new kinds of relationships. Developed countries have been keen to build on existing financial institutions they have shaped and traditionally controlled. Developing countries are wary of these same institutions, which they see as historically having advanced contributor interests and theories of development, through both the formal and informal exercise of donor power.
  • At the international level, the choice between reforming traditional development agencies, such as the GEF, U.N. Development Programme (UNDP), the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP), and MDBs, and creating new financial mechanisms will raise issues of institutional economy and effectiveness. In order to generate a greater sense of trust and ownership, backers of existing agencies may have to accept a degree of duplication of existing capacity through the creation of new mechanisms—particularly where significant gaps in capacity are identified—and to accept strengthened lines of accountability of climate finance mechanisms to the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP). On the other hand, those calling for the creation of new institutions may need to concede that it may waste precious resources to replicate the staff and services provided by existing agencies.
  • Balancing the roles of international and national institutions will also involve trade-offs. Traditional development agencies have gained the trust of contributors by putting in place systems to both measure and manage impacts of their investments. Developing country recipients, however, have been frustrated by the bureaucracy and the focus on generic rather than country-specific concerns that these systems can generate. Many developing countries will likely struggle to convince contributors that their national institutions have the capacity to manage large-scale development finance without the support of development agencies. Notably, a number of developing countries are taking steps to build and strengthen this capacity and will need support to do so.
  • Delivering climate finance at scale, at least in the short term, will likely involve multiple mechanisms, both new and reformed. This is true because of the complex politics of the international negotiations and the differing views of legitimacy held by contributors and donors. The urgency and complexity of delivering funds at scale argues for moving forward, at least in the near term, with the institutions that we have, and investing in the strength and quality of COP guidance and national planning processes to ensure coordination and coherence. This experience should then guide the design and operation of the new institutions that will become necessary as the scale of resources grows.
  • Low-carbon, climate-resilient development is an unexplored frontier for all countries and has potential risks as well as benefits. While high standards will have to be developed and maintained to ensure emissions fall and the vulnerable are protected, climate finance will necessarily entail experiments with new policies and technologies that will need to be watched closely for unintended environmental and social impacts.
  • Policymakers must agree on ways to diversify the sources of climate finance and to de-link them from the levers of informal power. If existing institutions are to meet evolving standards of legitimacy, then their fundamental governance structures, as well as their operational procedures, will need to be reformed to give greater voice to developing country recipients. If formal grants of power are to lead to the effective exercise of that power, the international community must also make greater efforts to identify sources of revenue, such as new levies or longterm commitments, that are independent from the discretion of contributor governments.
  • It is necessary to build the capacity of non-state actors and civil society to monitor climate finance governance. Civil society groups at all levels can and are playing an important role in monitoring and influencing decision-making within climate finance funds. But they need to occupy such spaces more effectively than they have to date by monitoring and engaging in more inclusive decision-making processes with technical rigor and authority. However, “representation” of nonstate actors can be a very difficult issue—civil society is diverse with widely differing views.
  • Near- and medium-term climate finance should focus on strengthening national institutions. A next generation of climate investments should promote the responsibility of recipient countries by strengthening the national institutions that will implement mitigation and adaptation activities and by ensuring their transparency and accountability to citizens within countries, as well as to the international community. While it is important that development agencies provide technical support to national institutions, they should work in closer partnership with national stakeholders. It will be particularly important to engage with stakeholders outside of government, including the private sector, independent research institutions, and civil society. Such collaborations can help ensure climate finance proposals more appropriately reflect national circumstances and priorities.
  • It is important to draw from the lessons learned from decades of development finance to build national institutions that reflect universally accepted principles of good governance. Traditional finance and development institutions have decades of experience—both good and bad—in translating internationally agreed upon agendas into national and local investments. National institutions should draw from these experiences and be designed and supported to operate in accordance with universal principles of good governance. Strong provisions for accountability should be put in place, including sound fiduciary management, anticorruption measures, and grievance mechanisms and inspection procedures that ensure compliance with environmental and social standards and safeguards.