By: Louise Brown, Benedict Libanda, Karl Aribeb and Sakeus Kadhikwa

The Environmental Investment Fund of Namibia (EIF) was one of the first institutions in Africa to access climate finance directly from the Green Climate Fund (GCF). It was accredited to the GCF in 2016, following a rigorous assessment of its capacities to manage funding for climate change projects. Since then, it has successfully raised a total funding amount of nearly USD 40 million (more than NAD 500 million) from the GCF for four projects which are building the resilience of vulnerable communities in Namibia to the negative impacts of climate change. These projects are now well into their implementation, with the first two nearing completion, and many lessons have been learned along the way.

The EIF’s journey with the GCF has been a rewarding and transformational one, significantly scaling up climate finance to Namibia, and pioneering new and more empowering ways to get funding to local communities for climate-resilient sustainable development.  A newly released report, written by Triple Capital and EIF, describes this journey, detailing the experiences both positive and challenging, and documenting the lessons and best practices that have been gleaned along the way. It identifies a number of recommendations for other developing country institutions and governments that may be seeking to access climate finance from the GCF. It also sets out some recommendations for how the GCF could better support developing country institutions in their quest to drive sustainable, climate resilient development.

For developing country institutions seeking to be accredited to directly access the GCF, it sets out the following lessons and recommendations:

  • Build a strong relationship with the national designated authority (NDA) for the GCF in your country. The NDA determines the country’s priority areas for funding from the GCF and signs off on all institutions to be accredited and all project proposals for a country. This relationship is thus crucial to ensuring that the accredited institution can effectively advance national climate change priorities;
  • Senior level buy-in and support for GCF accreditation within the institution is crucial, as the process is challenging and requires cooperation from all parts of the institution;
  • Invest in building a strong relationship with the GCF Secretariat to ensure a smooth and timely engagement;
  • Invest in building in-house capacity to develop and implement GCF projects so as to avoid reliance on GCF or third party readiness support, which can cause delays;
  • Comprehensive stakeholder engagement during project development is key to developing a strong project and enabling smooth implementation;
  • Build enough time for project inception and project closure into the project timelines so as to avoid rushing project implementation.

For the GCF, it identifies the following recommendations:

  • Support developing country institutions in the accreditation process, as they have a key role to play in advancing the objectives of the GCF to support a paradigm shift towards low-carbon, climate resilient development globally;
  • Ensure a fair and consistent process for proposal evaluation so that projects from all institutions are subjected to the same level of scrutiny;
  • Recognise that different countries are starting from different baselines in terms of their existing track record on sustainable development. It is important to ensure that the investment criteria for assessing project proposals don’t prejudice good practice by disadvantaging countries, like Namibia, that are seeking to build on a baseline of a strong track record in community-based natural resource management (CBNRM).
  • Strengthen the GCF’s “Enhanced Direct Access” (EDA) funding window, which is intended to channel climate finance to the local level,  such that it offers a meaningful opportunity to devolve funding and decision making to the local level, while strengthening local capacities and providing patient funding;
  • Trust the judgement and capacity of accredited national institutions (“direct access entities”) to design projects that respond to the needs and context of their countries;
  • Create opportunities for smaller sized direct access entities to bring in co-financing for their GCF projects, by reviewing the GCF’s definition of accreditation size limits;
  • Allow and encourage direct access entities to build capacity to upgrade their GCF accreditation status using a learning-by-doing approach through their GCF portfolios, so that they can eventually evolve to take on larger GCF projects, and projects with higher environmental and social risk levels;
  • Simplify the approval process for micro projects (projects that are up to USD 10 million in scale) with low environmental and social risks;
  • Review the accredited entity fee limit to ensure that the fees that institutions can receive to implement GCF projects are adequate to cover the real costs of project administration;
  • Facilitate access to readiness and project preparation funds so that direct access entities can be better supported to develop quality project proposals.

For developing countries that wish to benefit from direct access, in particular for NDAs, it sets out the following recommendations:

  • Advocate for and prioritise direct access, because although the process of getting a national institution accredited to the GCF is challenging, it brings transformational benefits to the country;
  • Facilitate a multi-stakeholder consultative process to raise awareness on climate change issues and seek input into GCF country programming;
  • Ensure a strong GCF country programme that will guide direct access entities in identifying projects and ensure that funded activities align with the country’s broader strategic climate change goals.