LONDON: The head of the Green Climate Fund, set up by the United Nations in the fight against global warming, stepped down abruptly after less than two years on the job, leaving the organization’s future in doubt.
Howard Bamsey, an Australian diplomat who served as the GCF’s executive director since January 2017, resigned after a “difficult” meeting in which no new projects were approved, according to a statement released after the gathering in Songdo, South Korea.
“This has been a very difficult and disappointing board meeting for all of us, but most importantly for those people who are most vulnerable to climate change impacts, and who depend on the activities of the Fund,” Lennart Bage, chairman of the GCF’s meeting, said in the statement.
Established in 2010, the fund has committed to US$3.7 billion of projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gases and helping nations overcome the impact of climate change. It has struggled since US President Donald Trump vowed to slash funding for the initiative as well as other environmental projects.
“Everyone said this is the low point,” said Jasmine Hyman, an environmental consultant at the British firm E Co. who attended the meeting. “This was a disappointing meeting but hopefully it’s a canary in the mine and not a nail in the coffin.”
Bamsey was the fund’s second executive director and had a mandate of expanding the loans the organization makes to green projects in developing nations. Most of the four-day meeting was spent discussing agenda items and how replace another envoy who had been representing developing countries, according to Hyman.
“I have been considering the best timing for my departures from the secretariat,” Bamsey said in a letter released by the GCF. “Pressing personal issues meant I would simply not be able to stay until the end of next year which is when replenishment is likely to conclude.”
The Green Climate Fund was a focal point for developing nations supporting the 2015 Paris Agreement, a landmark deal where more than 190 governments pledged to reduce fossil fuel emissions.
The GCF became a target of Trump last year when he announced he would withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement and concentrate on how to preserve the coal industry.
GCF funding supports 76 projects worldwide and a staff of 250 in Songdo. Bage said the fund has started the process of finding a new executive director.