Help WRI turn ideas into action all over the world.

You are here

Mobilizing Climate Investment

The Role of International Climate Finance in Creating Readiness for Scaled-Up, Low-Carbon Energy

Limiting global temperature rise to 2°C above pre-industrial levels will require billions of dollars in investments each year to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and shift to low-emissions development pathways. This report draws on the experiences of six developing countries to examine how public climate finance can help meet the significant investment needs of developing countries by creating attractive conditions for scaled-up investment in low-carbon energy. Building on lessons from the case studies, it provides a number of recommendations for international climate funds and institutions, in particular for the new Green Climate Fund.

Key Findings

Executive Summary

Between now and 2050, developing countries need an estimated $531 billion per year of additional investment in energy supply and demand technologies in order to limit global temperature rise to 2° C above pre-industrial levels. To achieve this scale of investment, developing country governments and custodians of international public finance will need to deploy limited public finance in ways that leverage an unprecedented volume of private sector investment. Despite growing global investment in low-carbon energy and falling costs, it will be difficult to achieve the scale and urgency of investments needed without the appropriate policy, institutional, industry, and financial conditions. Governments and their international partners need to undertake “readiness” activities designed to put in place the conditions that attract scaled-up investment and enable a transformation toward low-carbon energy development pathways.

Drawing on six developing country case studies, this report identifies a set of key lessons and insights for readiness. The report develops a framework to identify and prioritize readiness activities that will require public financial support to create the conditions necessary to scale up investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency (collectively referred to as low-carbon energy). The report discusses the implications of the findings for international climate finance and draws a number of recommendations for the Green Climate Fund (GCF). It targets international public funds and institutions looking to accelerate investment in low-carbon energy, as well as developing country governments looking to identify and prioritize activities for funding.

Enabling conditions for scaling up investment

We identify a number of policy and institutional, industry, and financial sector conditions that can attract scaled-up public and private investment in low-carbon energy. Policy and institutional conditions include plans and targets for low-carbon energy, institutional capacity to effectively implement climate change and energy policies, laws supporting investment in low-carbon energy, and regulatory and fiscal instruments to implement laws. Industry conditions include the capacity of developers to prepare bankable projects, information on renewable resource availability or options to conserve energy, engineering capacity, and the presence of a support industry and enabling infrastructure. Financial conditions include a stable financial sector with the capacity and range of financial products needed to support low-carbon energy.

In six case studies, we analyze the role that enabling activities have played in promoting scaled up investment in low-carbon energy, and the role that international public finance has played in supporting such activities. These case studies examine energy efficiency in Thailand, wind power in South Africa, solar water heaters in Tunisia, geothermal power in Indonesia, wind power in Mexico, and energy efficiency in India. Taken together, the case studies suggest two overarching determinants of success in scaling up investment: government leadership and effective responses to pricing distortions. When government leadership is strong, a commitment to policy and institutional reform and implementation of stated goals usually follows. This in turn strengthens the investment climate and increases investor confidence. In cases where market failures severely distort the market in favor of carbon-intensive energy sources, it has been more difficult to create the conditions that attract investment in low-carbon energy.

A framework for guiding readiness support for low-carbon energy investments

Building on the experiences of the six case studies, we propose a framework to guide governments and their international partners in determining how best to provide readiness support to countries with low-carbon energy sectors in different stages of development. The framework describes some of the activities required to strengthen the enabling policy and institutional environment for investment. In the early stages of development, these include support for assessing energy options, engaging stakeholders in the energy planning process, capacity building for government agencies and civil society, technical support for developing plans and strategies, and outreach activities. In later stages, activities include support for designing and implementing regulations and fiscal instruments, and targeted capacity building for government agencies, including local governments.

The proposed framework also describes some of the activities needed to strengthen the enabling industry and financial conditions for investment. In early stages of development, these include renewable resource assessments and energy conservation awareness campaigns, capacity building for project developers and financial institutions, support for technology transfer and localization, feasibility studies and environmental and social impact assessments, and support for financial sector reform. At later stages, activities include strengthening engineering capacity for low-carbon energy projects, supporting ancillary industries (such as upgrading grid infrastructure), and supporting financial institutions to assess and finance low-carbon energy projects.

Recommendations for the Green Climate Fund

The six case studies illustrate different approaches that various international partners have used to support readiness activities. The lessons learned are intended to inform the recently established GCF as it attempts to identify how best to support a paradigm shift toward low-emission and climate-resilient development pathways. Although the GFC’s detailed operational modalities are not yet defined, it could take a number of approaches to support readiness. These include supporting readiness directly or partnering with existing institutions; establishing distinct channels and allocations for readiness or integrating enabling activities into existing channels and allocations; and supporting readiness through the private sector facility.

Stay Connected

Sign up for our newsletters

Get our latest commentary, upcoming events, publications, maps and data. Sign up for the weekly WRI Digest.