Remarks of Judith Karl, UNCDF Executive Secretary, on the occasion of the NAP EXPO 2019

  • April 08, 2019

  • Seoul, South Korea

Contact Information

David Mikhail
Communications Specialist
+1 212 906 6569

UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF)
Two UN Plaza 26th Floor
New York, NY 10017, United States



Good morning. I deeply appreciate the privilege of officially opening NAP Expo 2019. I would like to extend my profound thanks to the LEG as well as the UNFCCC for organizing this critically important gathering.

I would also like to acknowledge the Korean Ministry of Environment and its partners for assembling, what I know will be, a successful Korea Adaptation Week.

And given the remarkable damage and devastating loss of life we have witnessed as a result of Tropical Cyclone Idai, and the findings of the new UN global climate report that shows record highs in global temperatures, sea levels and greenhouse gas concentrations, is it evident that time is running out.

Anyone who has read the IPCC’s Special Report on Global Warming knows that we have a fairly clear view of the future threat that climate change represents to the sustainability of our planet. The Paris Agreement sets out a framework for addressing this, but progress has been insufficient. We would argue that one way of accelerating progress is to align funding and action with the institutions that have the day-to-day mandate and responsibility to respond to climate change. This does not always happen. For example, whilst the climate change debates feature international development institutions and Ministries of Environment they do not always include those entities that are at the front line of the challenge. This includes cities and local governments.

In fact, IPCC recently acknowledged the role of cities and local governments to delivering the Paris Agreement and securing our future on the planet. In Edmonton, March 2018 IPCC joined with global networks of cities and local governments to hold the first IPCC Cities and Climate Change Science conference. This was a recognition from the scientific community that cities and local governments are not only a unit of measurement for climate adaptation but also a unit of action. Indeed, the joint statement reads

Cities and regions may also be powerhouses of ambitious mitigation and adaptation measures that are hard to legislate and implement at the national level.

Specific attention must be given to small and medium sized cities and informal settlements, which have not been adequately represented in the climate change debate, and which generally suffer from a lack of technical capacity, resources and essential data to inform decision-making at the local level.

The United Nations Capital Development Fund was present at Edmonton and chaired one of the sessions on Local Government Climate Finance. The discussion focused on mechanisms for local governments to secure long term stable funding to meet the incremental cost of adaptation.

One such mechanism is the Local Climate Adaptive Living Facility. The Local Climate Adaptive Living Facility (LoCAL) was conceived by UNCDF to become a standard and country-based mechanism for local governments to access public and private finance to meet the challenge of climate adaptation. So far 14 countries have joined the Board of the LoCAL mechanism. 5 countries are in the pipeline for Direct Access to the Green Climate Fund to scale up the LoCAL mechanism, which combines performance-based climate resilience grants (PBCRGs) that ensure programming and verification of climate change expenditures at the local level while offering strong incentives for performance improvements in enhanced resilience – with technical and capacity-building support. We are pleased to report that the LoCAL guidelines will be adopted as a supplement to the UNFCCC NAP guidelines.

Inspired by our belief that local governments hold the key to sustainable resilience, UNCDF has also joined with the United Cities and Local Governments in a coalition for a financial ecosystem that works for cities and local governments. The coalition is developing an initiative to support local governments access finance from capital markets for measurable, verifiable long-term adaptation, using the LoCAL mechanism.

Both the LoCAL mechanism and UNCDF other local government investment initiatives reflect UNCDF’s 20-year experience in local government finance and fiscal decentralization. For a long time, local government finance has been viewed as either a largely technical issue or as a highly charged political question involving a zero-sum power game between central and local levels of government.

The imperative of responding to climate change has altered both these perspectives. Local government finance is too important to be left to the policy specialists. It is also too important to be held hostage to the power struggles between politicians. Instead it has become one of the keys to sustaining our life on the planet because local governments are one of the main vehicles for delivering sustainability.

UNCDF is delighted to be at this NAP expo to showcase how we have collaborated with UNFCCC to develop meaningful and practical mechanisms to address local adaptation.

Let me close by saying the obvious. We have very little time to act and the stakes could not be higher. Let us all work together to translate our adaptation ambition into reality. And please know that you can rely on UNCDF to play a leading role in this effort.