Inputs for the Green Climate Fund Environmental and Social Management System (ESMS)

This submission fulfils a request made by the Secretariat for public input on elements for the development of the GCF ESMS in response to Board decision B.07/02, paragraph (n) and an approved outline for the Fund’s ESMS. The input below is provided on behalf of the organizations listed below. This submission should be read as a work in progress. 


The Environmental and Social Management System (ESMS) should include procedures and processes to identify, assess and manage environmental and social risks; concretely describe the roles, responsibilities and capabilities of all stakeholders involved; and provide clear guidelines on monitoring and reporting activities.

The ESMS should not be understood as a narrow set of policies, principles and standards focusing only on environmental and social safeguards, but as a comprehensive system of interlocking and mutually reinforcing operational policies and procedures, due diligence and compliance systems. This includes GCF operational policies and procedures addressed elsewhere but which have crucial interlinkages, such as the Gender Policy, Information Disclosure Policy, Accountability Mechanisms, especially the Independent Redress Mechanism, Initial Monitoring and Accountability Framework, Communication Strategy and still-to-be-developed guidelines for stakeholder engagement and participation.

The ESMS should define clear objectives and mandatory implementation measures, which includes providing a robust structure for managing the operational risks of the GCF; ensuring the environmental and social soundness and gender-responsiveness of GCF operations; giving solutions for addressing environmental and social issues, including gender, in GCF operations; identifying environmental and social risks and preventing environmental and social impacts under a “do no harm” approach, taking into account different impacts on men and women; establishing mandatory requirements for stakeholder engagement which is gender-responsive and disclosure of information; and improving the effectiveness of results on the ground.

Given the GCF’s mandate of preventing and alleviating the impacts of climate change, the ESMS must be designed in a way that not only meets, but, exceeds the environmental and social safeguards of other multilateral financial institutions1. This is bedrock to the GCF being a genuinely transformational institution and an essential component differentiating the GCF within the broader climate finance and multilateral finance landscape.

Additionally, as a body within the UN system, the GCF should adopt a “rights-based approach,” similar to other UN agencies and funds (such as the Adaptation Fund). It must not be limited to standards adopted by other international financial institutions. Similarly, the GCF is an operating entity of the financial mechanism of the UNFCCC, and as such, its policies and procedures must be in line with UNFCCC decisions. For example, all REDD+ projects supported by the GCF should follow the existing COP decisions relevant for REDD+. In the case of REDD+ projects affecting Indigenous Peoples, the Free, Prior and Informed Consent Guidelines adopted by the UN-REDD Programme should apply.

As many GCF policies and procedures are yet to be developed, or are in the process of development, sequencing is key. The ESMS should be carefully coordinated with the development of the GCF’s own to-be-developed environmental and social safeguards.

The GCF ESMS should also include an Indigenous Peoples Policy that spell out the principles and criteria that the GCF will apply to ensure that its operations do no harm to Indigenous Peoples, respect international human rights obligations and standards, as regards, among others, Indigenous Peoples’ rights to land, territories and resources, and recognizes and fosters Indigenous Peoples’ traditional knowledge systems and traditional ecosystem management systems’ contributions to adaptation and mitigation.

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