Written by Victoria Matusevich, Program Coordinator for BASE, AVINA

Local communities face many barriers to accessing climate finance. One, but by no means the only, obstacle has been the requirement to present a “climate rationale” – proof that a project submitted for funding intends to either reduce greenhouse gas emissions, address climate change impacts, or contribute to climate resilient development.

For a proposal to the Green Climate Fund, for example, applicants are required to describe the climate change problem; mitigation (greenhouse gas emissions profile) and/or adaptation needs (climate hazards and associates risks based on impacts, exposure, and vulnerabilities); the most likely scenario (prevailing conditions or other alternative) that would remain or continue in the absence of the proposed interventions; baseline information; and the methodologies used to derive the climate rationale.

A consultative process undertaken by Building Approaches to fund local Solutions with climate Evidence (BASE) and Adaptation Research Alliance (ARA) in 2022 found that local actors in developing countries face multiple technical, social, and capacity challenges in developing a climate rationale. These include:

  • Gaps in data and information, particularly at the localized scale. This is due to the lack of availability of decentralized and historic data, but also because of the lack of access to data in some cases, and difficulties in communicating data in different languages and local dialects.

  • The complexity of climate modelling and developing scenarios.

  • The varying level of capacity and resources across countries or institutions to generate and use climate information.

  • Limited understanding on how climate drivers and associated risks impact community livelihoods.

  • The lack of public and private investments in climate information and high-quality data systems and infrastructure.

BASE, coordinated by Fundación Avina, was launched as a collaborative initiative by multiple partners to develop, through grant making schemes, a simpler methodology to develop the climate rationale at the community level. BASE follows a three-pillared strategy:

  • Fund locally led projects, to unlock the potential of communities to drive impactful initiatives and promote effective climate action at the grassroots level.

  • Learn-by-doing, to test ways of developing the climate rationale that are efficient, simple, resonate with communities, and combine local and traditional knowledge with scientific data.

  • Share lessons with institutions and individuals involved in accessing and delivering climate finance, for change towards making climate finance more accessible to local communities.

The first call for applications to the grants was launched in February 2023, offering a one-year grant of US$ 40,000 to eight climate solutions led by local communities or organizations, focused on tropical forest management. Three of these will be implemented in Latin America (Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Brazil), three in Africa (Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Cameroon), and two in Asia (both in Indonesia).

For this inaugural call, an innovative approach was designed to expedite and simplify the development of the climate rationale for the proposal, while enhancing the engagement of both the grantee and the local communities. To ensure that diverse voices and creative expressions were accommodated, candidates were given the freedom to choose from three options to explain the climate rationale: video, essay, or template. Applicants were also requested to provide information on their understanding of existing climate-related risks, impacts, vulnerabilities, and coping strategies. This information helped to infer the climate rationale behind their proposals.

Once grantees were selected, a dedicated researcher was hired by BASE to work closely with them to refine the climate rationale, in a way that struck a balance between scientific climate data (from sources like the IPCC) and Indigenous and local knowledge (first-hand information gathered directly from the communities). The researcher was selected in close collaboration with the grantee, to ensure that the chosen candidate possessed both a robust academic background and a deep familiarity with the local context. Combining climate science and traditional knowledge is key to focusing not only on physical impacts, but also on the social, economic and cultural consequences of climate change, and to understand how local communities relate climate risks to their own priorities.

Through the grants, BASE also aims to:

  • Simplify the proposal process through simpler and more flexible formats, language options, and clear guidance on how to complete them.

  • Share progress and learning on novel and fit-for-purpose approaches to developing climate rationales, and promote the acceptance of flexible ways for providing evidence of implementation by focusing on trust.

  • Offer support to grantees every step of the way, addressing language barriers and lack of familiarity with technical terms, promptly responding to enquiries, and providing multiple rounds of feedback to prevent discouraging the grantees.

BASE aims to develop methodologies that can influence bigger grant providers and funds in the future to facilitate access to climate finance by local actors and to pilot sector and thematic tracks, such as developing rationales to access funding for loss and damage.