Tracking Climate Finance, Part 2: A Case for Local Participation

Tera Johnson
Jan 21 · 3 min read

Read part one here.

Tackling climate change is going to take some bold moves. Just ask congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The projects she’s laid out in the Green New Deal are incredibly ambitious and would move the US towards a carbon free economy in just ten years. While the entire globe would benefit from, say, the carbon reductions a national smart grid would bring, it still wouldn’t address the issues felt at the local level. Impacts like increased flooding events, which can pollute drinking water supplies and even threaten lives, are better addressed by local municipalities that are far more aware of the day-to-day and long-term concerns of their constituents.

This is no different in developing counties.

Like their industrialized counterparts, local governments and community organizations in developing countries play an important role in addressing smaller scale climate change impacts. They have a better feel for what’s happening on the ground, making them better equipped to exchange information and set priorities for taking fair and effective climate action.

Take the Philippines’ Siargao Island, a region where marine and coastal resources are threatened by illegal fishing and unregulated mangrove removal. Through the collaboration of local actors across sectors, the Municipality of Del Carmen was able to create the Siargao Climate Field School for Farmers and Fisherfolks (SCFSFF), which helps inform and empower fisherman and farmers to promote environmental protection and sustainability. Through tailored trainings and workshops, Del Carmen and the Siargao State College of Technology (SSCT) provided farmers and fisherman with technical assistance and education about innovative approaches to future climate scenarios.

The Municipality of Del Carmen was fortunate enough to receive funds from the national government’s People’s Survival Fund, which, since its establishment in 2012, has only funded 2 projects. That’s likely because most developing nations only have the capacity to fund a small fraction (if any) of the projects needed to address local level climate vulnerabilities. This is where international climate funds should, theoretically, come in. However, of the climate funds directed to developing nations, only a mere 10% reaches the local level.

There are many reasons why international funds favor national scale projects over local ones, including:

Organizations like the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) are exploring how international finance flows to the local level. Through research and directly working with local groups and agencies, they’ve identified some of the barriers to devolving finance to local institutions, as well as solutions to overcome them. Among these include:

No strategy is perfect. Even when funds are directed to local governments, injustices may still arise. An article published in Climate Policy points out that systematic marginalization occurs all levels of government, national to local. Therefore, special attention must be directed to those pockets of society often overlooked by their own governments. These includes women, ethnic minorities and those living in “illegal” settlements. Some of the biggest players in the field of climate finance are working to increase the capacities of those at the front lines. The Global Environment Facility’s (GEF) Small Grants Programme, for instance, focuses and supporting poor and vulnerable communities through adopting sustainable agricultural practices, water management, and disaster risk reductions.

Climate change projects are most successful when those that are affected are involved. While public engagement is key to most local scale projects, national level projects, too, would benefit when community engagement is integrated at all levels of planning. (And yes, this also goes for the Green New Deal). The combination of local and national level projects, framed by the communities in which they are supposed to help, will be crucial to holistically addressing climate change.

Tera Johnson

Written by

Environmental scientist and artist. Check out my sciart collective —

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