By Jenny Na
SONGDO, South Korea — Carolina Fuentes is the Secretary to the Board at Green Climate Fund (GCF), a global fund formed to assist developing countries in responding to climate change. She previously worked as the director of climate change for the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources in Mexico. Fuentes focuses on global issues such as climate change, international cooperation and communication with environmental organizations such as the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), which facilitates economic and political cooperation between Canada, Mexico and the United States to protect the North American environment.
The GCF made headlines last June when President Trump announced the U.S. would pull out of the Paris climate agreement and cut funding for what he called the “so-called Green Climate Fund — nice name.”
As part of the Global Student Square team, I interviewed Carolina Fuentes at GCF headquarters in G-Tower, high above Songdo. On that cold, rainy November day, Fuentes expressed optimism about the challenge of climate change, talking about the need to preserve green space in Songdo and her own favorite garden back in her native Mexico.
How would you describe the GCF’s mission to others? What are the Green Climate Fund’s three top priorities?
I will first start with GCF’s mission to other people because it embraces the whole mandate of the GCF. The mission of the GCF is to support developing countries and their governments in making a transition to lower carbon emissions and climate-resilient development. It helps developing countries combat climate change and implement projects to both mitigate and adapt to a changing climate.
The top priority is to support developing countries in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change. The second priority is to support implementation of the 2010 Framework Convention on Climate Change by the United Nations. The GCF is the financial mechanism of that convention and needs to meet the needs of that convention. The third is to make a meaningful impact on the global level.
GCF wishes to mobilize efforts globally from developed countries, which provide resources, and channel them to developing countries.
The GCF has a long list of projects around the world but I am sure there are even more that need funding. What makes a particular project right for the GCF? What are examples of successful projects? How does the GCF receive funds to support its mission?
The GCF has an investment criteria that is basically a checklist of points that a project needs to comply with to be eligible for funding. An ideal project for funding firstly needs to be in the interest of countries. Secondly, the GCF searches for projects that can have a wide impact on the community in which they are implemented. It considers the economic and social benefits of that project proposal, especially in relation to sustainable development. Perhaps the main part is that the GCF looks for projects that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make societies resilient to the impact of climate change.
The GCF supports a total of 58 projects and some have very concrete benefits. One in El Salvador promotes renewable energy. The intention is to supply loans to local banks so that they can provide credit to project proponents who want to promote energy efficiency projects. This would have been impossible without GCF support because commercial banks do not provide credit for projects that may do not have short-term profit. I think this is a unique contribution that GCF has made in terms of financing.
In terms of funds, our resources come from what is called the initial resource mobilization. This source of funding extends until the end of 2018 and is based on voluntary contribution from countries. A unique characteristic of the GCF is that it receives funding both from developing countries and developed countries. The GCF has 43 contributors, nine of them being developing countries. This is quite new because most financial instruments only receieve economic resources from developed countries.
How did the U.S. decision to pull out of the Paris climate accords affect your work?
Certainly it is not the best moment in global politics in terms of addressing climate change. However, it is worth noting that most countries are very committed and the GCF has seen as recent as last week that the United States delegation still has a strong presence even though it may not be the federal government. Civil society organizations and local governments have expressed that they are still committed to the mission …. What has been seen as negative for the world has prompted others to act and fill in that vacuum.
The GCF was set up in 2010 in a conference that took place in Mexico. In a way we were created by a larger amount of countries and what the individual country does shouldn’t impact the mandate of the GCF because we respond to a multilateral community.
Songdo is known for its green space, including Central Park. There is a field in the middle of Songdo where people are growing vegetables with a lot of trash and construction debris. In your opinion, should people be allowed to continue growing vegetables there, or should it be converted to another use? What should be the balance between housing and green space in Songdo?
I see these gardens sometimes in the streets. In some places there are flowers and other places garbage. This is related to Incheon city and the GCF would not have much to say. In any case, it would need more information on what’s going on in the area to have a proper opinion.
I hope that Songdo can keep its green space because it is one of the aspects that I appreciate most about the city, not only as a GCF worker, but as a person living in Songdo …. When more apartments are built, Songdo should always have a bigger area to compensate for the lost green space …. Even if it is a small park, it helps in having a better environment. The larger the area, the better. Trees always help in cleaning the air and provide a more friendly place to walk around. It makes a better city in several ways.
Though Songdo tries to maintain an image as an eco-friendly city, it still struggles with waste management and has there is trash on some streets. What is the GCF’s opinion on this problem?
I can comment on the trash not as the GCF but on a personal level. I have noticed that there are efforts to keep the city clean but in some sections of Songdo it is visible that there is trash. Songdo has always promoted how they process garbage … and is trying to build a reputation as a city with innovative systems. This in a way contradicts the good management of garbage in an eco-friendly city.
What is your favorite park in the world?
I have to say I like Songdo and the parks here, particularly Sunrise Park on the other end of the city. I like some other parks but I don’t know their names. In my home country, Mexico, I have a favorite that is very close to my home. Its name is Parque de España and is a very nice park where people go for a short run and come with their families for some rest.
—Jenny Na and Logan Choi are students at Chadwick International School in Songdo.