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Governance & Access

This past week, the board of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) met for the first time. This was an important milestone around the goal of increasing financial support to help developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change. Expectations are high for the Fund, officially established at the 2011 Durban climate talks. It’s positioned to become the main global channel for climate finance, expected to reach $100 billion per year by 2020.

Sentiments from Last Week’s Meetings

There was an atmosphere of excitement at last week’s meetings in Geneva, which brought together a group of 24-countries and their alternates, charged with improving the mobilization of climate finance. The meeting itself focused largely on procedural actions, including the election of the two co-chairs.

This post was co-written with Gilbert Sendugwa, Coordinator and Head of Secretariat for the Africa Freedom of Information Centre.

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) boasts some pretty lofty and much-needed goals. The global initiative aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. It was officially launched September 20, 2011 by eight founding governments: Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, United Kingdom, and United States.

Now that the OGP is nearly one year old, it’s a good time to analyze how it’s faring—most notably in Africa, which has a long history of secrecy in government and lack of effective public participation.

India recently experienced one of the world’s worst blackouts, with 670 million citizens directly impacted. While media reports have focused on the repercussions from two days of outages, this incident illustrates a much larger, more systemic problem: the need for improved electricity governance.

India’s History of Power Problems

India has the world’s fifth-largest electrical system, with an installed electric capacity of about 206 gigawatts (GW). India initiated power sector reforms in the early 1990s through a range of legal, policy, and regulatory changes. Over the last two decades, some of these reforms have been impressive, but several others weren’t taken. This lack of follow-through has resulted in a growing gap between electricity demand and supply throughout the country. Recent blackouts may have shined a spotlight on this gap, but it’s a situation that’s widespread in India: Not only do 400 million Indians lack access to electricity, but electricity supply is unreliable and of poor quality even in large parts of “electrified” India. In addition to the existing demand, Indian consumers, businesses, and industries seek more electricity to power appliances, processes, and products, further exacerbating the demand-supply gap. By 2035, India’s power demand is expected to more than double.

In looking at the recent blackouts and India’s power supply situation in general, three major governance issues jump out:

Sarah Martin and Gayatri Gadag also contributed to this blog post.

Rio+20 may have ended more than three weeks ago, but the environmental and development communities are still feeling the disappointment. One of the biggest shortcomings was the lack of collaboration between citizen groups (the “grassroots”) and the policy research organizations that influence policymakers (the “grasstops”).

As WRI’s Manish Bapna points out, “A gap and lack of coordination between grassroots and grasstops institutions was evident during the Rio+20 summit. Advancing sustainable development in a meaningful way hinges on bridging this gap.” In other words, creating political will and building the constituency necessary to support the policy changes being advocated for requires collaboration between different segments of civil society.

Expanding Clean Energy Access

Bridging the grassroots-grasstops divide is especially necessary when it comes to clean energy access, an issue that received much attention at Rio+20 as a result of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s Sustainable Energy for All (SE4A) initiative. SE4A is a global initiative that aims to mobilize action from all sectors of society to support universal access to modern energy services, improve energy efficiency, and increase the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix. However, actually expanding clean energy access will require cooperation between think tanks, institutions, governments, and the citizens who are most in need of sustainable energy access.

More than a year ago, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon likened Rio+20 to a “free-market revolution for global sustainability,” calling for the event to inspire innovations that move the world toward more sustainable pathways to economic growth and development. Later in the year, U.N. Commission for Sustainable Development Chair, Sha Zukang, explained that the main difference of Rio+20 from earlier conferences “will be the sharp focus on renewing political commitments and on implementation…” Said Sha, “My message is: come to Rio ready to commit.”

The Rio+20 conference wrapped up on June 22nd, so the big question is: Did governments come through with these serious commitments?

绿色气候基金(Green Climate Fund)第一次大会即将召开,而亚太地区以及拉丁美洲和加勒比海地区国家尚未提名其董事会成员。在过去长达两年的谈判中,绿色气候基金被寄予了向发展中国家提供大规模应对气候变化资金的厚望。然而如果不完成提名,董事会就无法启动“全球最主要的气候变化基金”这一重要项目的运作。

La primera reunión del Fondo de Clima Verde (GCF) se acerca rápidamente y dos de los grupos regionales—Asia-Pacífico y América Latina y el Caribe—todavía no han nominado a sus representantes para la Junta. El GCF fue desarrollado durante los dos últimos años, y ahora se espera que ofrezca financiamiento a gran escala para ayudar a afrontar los efectos del cambio climático en países en vía de desarrollo. Sin terminar las nominaciones, la Junta no puede lanzar “el principal fondo global de finanzas para afrontar cambio climático.”

Dans le cadre de la première réunion du Conseil du Fonds Vert pour le Climat (GCF) à venir, deux groupes régionaux – Asie/Pacifique et Amérique Latine/Caraïbes – devraient encore désigner leurs membres auprès du Conseil de Direction du GCF. Négocié au cours des deux dernières années, le GCF aura pour but de fournir aux pays en développement des financements substantiels en vue de lutter contre le changement climatique. La désignation de ces membres du Conseil de Direction est une condition essentielle au lancement opérationnel de ce Fonds « instrument central du financement sur les changements climatiques ».

The main focus of the formal negotiations at Rio+20 is the outcome document, “The Future We Want.” The text, which was approved earlier this week and will likely be agreed upon by heads of state and U.N. officials, outlines a global framework for sustainable development and building a green economy. The text will have an impact on areas ranging from climate change to business to transportation, but the document’s biggest implications for governance is its references to Principle 10. By including this Principle and modest action, the outcome document offers glimmers of hope that citizens—including poor and marginalized communities across the globe—will no longer fall victim to environmentally degrading, exploitative development projects.

Rio+20 has not quite concluded, but we’re rapidly approaching the end line. Somewhat unexpectedly, the Rio+20 outcome document was largely finalized yesterday afternoon. NGOs have weighed in on what this means, and most are rightfully frustrated. Almost across the board, the document is much too soft and vague to solve today’s sustainability challenges. Much of the text is merely a reaffirmation of previous agreements or worse, a regression from those agreements.

That said, we’ve believed all along that the more groundbreaking action at Rio+20 would be outside of the formal process. Certainly, after attending many side events and informal meetings this week, I’ve come across numerous examples of civil society organizations, entrepreneurs, companies, and others who are moving forward with innovative approaches to address sustainability. Perhaps more importantly, outside of Rio, many national and local governments are genuinely pushing ahead on sustainability in exciting ways.

The picture at Rio is much like the world today: complex, incremental and not rising to the challenges in front of us.


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