by Kayla Collado

Have you ever wondered about where the money to fight climate change comes from? What about whose responsibility it should be to provide this money? Perhaps even consider who actually receives the money? These questions are necessary to consider for COP21 to make a difference.

The latest Green Climate Fund (GCF) report, sent to COP21 members and available to the public, compiles ideas  to address these questions. The GCF report also addresses how they will follow COP’s suggestions to do so. These suggestions included:

  • To confirm monetary pledges from different countries with binding agreements, so as to actually collect the money promised
  • To begin approving project proposals submitted by countries in need of aid
  • Increase the transparency of its proceedings (which is why the report is so thorough)
  • Facilitate the ability of developing countries to engage with the Fund
  • Ensure that the staff selection is based on merit without discrimination
  • Accelerate the work done to address all of these suggestions

Despite the strides GCF and COP are making toward a more efficient system for climate change monetary aid, it is difficult to decide who gets the money. As Richard Klein and Annett Möhner discussed in Political Dimensions of Vulnerability: Implications for the Green Climate Fund, the difficulty in allocating money is in answering seemingly straightforward questions: What does vulnerability mean? Whose decision is it to choose to mitigate negative climate-related impacts in one vulnerable location over another? How would you choose?

According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, “vulnerability” is defined as “in need of special care, support, or protection.” In the Klein and Möhner piece, vulnerability is defined as “the degree to which a system is susceptible to, and unable to cope with, adverse effects.” The dictionary definition gives a broad definition that can apply to many places around the world, which can be an issue. The Klein and Möhner definition gets more detailed and relates better to climate change; it brings up a level of degree to which the definition can be applied to different areas. As a class, we decided that the Klein and Mohner definition, also the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) definition, is well-written and a great starting point for further discussion. As much as climate leaders avoid it, they need to view countries along a scale of vulnerability since the GCF does not have enough money to help everyone. It is also important to point out that this definition includes the idea of coping, because although certain areas may be susceptible to adverse effects, they may already have systems in place that allow them to cope with those effects.

One potential design for financial support to areas chosen by the GCF includes a committee that sends money to a small selection of the most vulnerable areas in the world. With similar committes, there have been too many variables for everyone to agree. Another design allows countries to send in their proposals for funding, but it can be difficult for financially unstable countries to create a committee informed enough to adequately pull this off. Our class agreed that a mix of designs would be best.

In significant ways, Amherst College provides us with an opportunity to understand the complexity of allocating monetary aid. The situation is comparable to financial aid policies at Amherst; Amherst students with financial need all have different levels of need and potential contribution. The system we use relates to the design where students send in proposals for funding since students can fill out financial aid applications. If it works for Amherst, it might have potential to work on a larger scale.

The US has pledged $3 billion to the GCF cause this summer. However, pledging is not signing, and the GCF needs to reach their initial goal of $10 billion to make a difference. There are areas of the world that need extra help in the effort to fight the climate changes we all face. As you hear and read about GCF in the weeks leading up to COP21, these readings and this discussion should help you reflect on the political and economic dimensions of climate change and possible solutions for those most in need. We’d love to hear your thoughts on possible distributions of aid and how you think vulnerable areas should be decided upon.