The Importance of Equitable and Fair Access to Climate Finance as a Theme at COP26

Submitted by Ana Maria Vela Lostaunau | published 10th Jan 2022 | last updated 8th Mar 2022
"Financing as a means to climate justice that leaves no one behind", COP26 Side Event
Panelists COP26 Side Event


Local communities in the global south face the greatest impacts of climate change. They provide climate solutions based on their local knowledge, yet they remain unable to access climate finance funds or have any say in how the money is spent.

The Government of Ecuador as host, together with Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation, Fundación Avina, Voices for Just Climate Action (VCA) alliance, the civil association TEMNYA21 and the regional project Andes Resilientes al Cambio Climático, came together to organize a side event within the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2021 framework - COP26 - to discuss how the financing of local solutions can better respond to the local needs.

An infographic on the event "Financing local solutions as a means to climate justice that leaves no one behind" can be downloaded from the right-hand column


This side event held on November 4 sought to raise awareness about the global need to find better ways to bring financial resources closer to communities that have developed climate solutions based on their needs. Rewatch the event here. Below we provide a summary.


The event began with a welcome by Ecuador’s Minister of Environment, Water and Ecological Transition, Gustavo Manrique, who also participated in the panel; as well as opening remarks by Rosa Morales, General Director of Climate Change and Desertification of the Ministry of the Environment of Peru.

Anju Sharma

Anju Sharma, lead on Local Action at the Global Centre on Adaptation, gave a scene-setting presentation for the session.

Anju gave an example from Odisha, India, about the financing challenges faced by communities. Forests are dryer – fires happen earlier and more frequently, and as a result livelihoods may be destroyed - as occurred in last year’s fires.  Since the communities have no economic assets and can not borrow, just one such event can set back development gains in all aspects energy, health, education if the communities don’t receive timely help. Local government usually can’t help because they have no unallocated funding. National government budgets also are under heavy financial strain, partly because of costs of climate change. There is sometimes external funding, but government has limited capacity to access this even at the national level because of complicated access modalities for funding. They rely on the work of external consultants but frequently there is shift in focus to  national rather than local level activities.

Other drawbacks of money from international sources are that it does not work well with national budgets – it needs to be used in different ways. As a result there is very little local or even national determination of funding. Bilateral and multilateral institutions need to become more coherent in funding, and make it easier to access. Local communities cannot access funds because of prolongued access modality – it takes time to deal with - too late to provide help. There is some improvement now with the provision of ‘direct access’ funding with the Adaptation Fund and likewise with the Green Climate Fund. These are providing lessons – suggesting this is working for national governments - as is making development assistance part of national budgets (for example the OECD  published a report on this). Now we have to make it easier for local governments and communities.

We should focus on making access simpler so that it works for communities, on flexibility for communities to decide what the money is used for.  Funders should be accountable to the communities, rather than the other way around where accountability is through very complex M&E systems.

In her presentation, Anju left us various reflections, as captured in the following Helvetas tweets:


Panel discussion

The panel was the central part of the event with experts who, through financing success stories at the local level, discussed the challenges and proposed solutions for access to climate finance. This panel was composed of:

  • Gustavo Manrique Miranda, Minister of Environment, Water and Ecological Transition of Ecuador:

Minister Manrique gave some examples of programmes involving local actors in Equador including a GCF-funded REDD+ project where money goes to the community to protect forests, another project funding work with indigenous people to increase their capacity to access climate funding, Sosio Bosque which is providing payments for ecosystem services (PES) to local people, particularly those engaging in entrepreneurial business such as mangrove conserv

  • Melchior Lengsfeld, Director of HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation and President of Alliance 2015:

Farming families in rural Andean areas are hugely exposed to climate change and they face significant barriers to get help: there is not enough climate funding, and that which is available is very difficult to access. This same situation also arises in the 30 countries where Helvetas worked and in most of the 85 countries where Alliance 2015 (a group of European NGOs) has actions: the attention to the adaptation question at the local level is just not high enough today. An innovative project facilitated by Helvetas and Fundacion Avina in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru and funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Andes Resilientes al Cambio Climático, looks to devise an inclusive approach where local governments have an important role in designing adaptive policies. These efforts, focusing on policies made within national governments of the three Andean countries also focus on generating mechanisms that secure a role for communities in deciding how to spend the climate funds despite all the fiduciary requirements. Melchoir highlighted that Hivos, as part of Voices for Climate Action, has produced a discussion paper with a huge number of good practices and adaptive solutions from local voices that are crucial to bringing them into the international discussions.

  • Dr. James Sankale, Director of the Environment, Kajiado County Government, Kenya:

Dr Sankale spoke about a Hivos clean energy project which involved communities through several steps. First, an Atlas was created with better information on forest resources, second the local communities, involving youth and women, were trained on the use of alternative energies for cooking. The project aims at increasing tree cover and supporting the most vulnerable users of forest resources. There is a strong need for legislation and policy which should involve local government and represent local views. 

  • Tiza Mafira, Associate Director of the Indonesian Climate Policy Initiative:

Communities have trouble defining their adaptation and mitigation needs to help them to alleviate the impacts of climate change. Their needs are complex and therefore finding finance that meets their needs is very challenging. Often finance is already defined and has to fit financing criteria, instead of making financing fitting community needs. For example, in one project to support a village in East Kalimantan, Indonesia, finance was available for capacity building for sustainable production of palm oil. However, villagers felt they were not currently prospering from palm oil, there was competition with other producers, whereas diverse cropping had decreased leaving them not very food secure. Their needs were more to do with accessing funding to try different crops (other than palm) and learn what works best for them. They need help with articulating this, with the financial modelling (of risks of crop strategies) to liaise with banks and development institutions, but they should also have the capacity to do this for themselves.

  • Bianka Kretchmer, Climate Change Analyst at the Adaptation Fund: 

Bianka discussed the Adaptation Fund's work on channelling funding to the local level and reflected on barriers including the high transaction costs on funding small projects and difficulty to incentivise, but noted also some improvements in fund design: direct access modality, more local input into decision-making about how funds should be spent. Main success factors with such projects include the involvement of CBOs that have been working a long time in the area and the introduction of improved criteria on projects that are approved for funding.

The event was facilitated by Andrés Mogro, climate policy specialist and coordinator in Ecuador for the Andes Resilientes project. If you want to know more about the proposed topic, you can download an infographic with key points here, and a more detailed analysis in this paper prepared by Hivos.