Interview with Norbert Gorissen, BMU Head of Division

Picture of Norbert Gorissen

BMU Head of Division Norbert Gorissen. PIcture: BMU

Norbert Gorißen heads the division "International Climate Finance, International Climate Initiative" in the BMU. Since 2008, he is responsible for the implementation of the IKI, while at the international level he is particularly involved in the design of the "Green Climate Fund" (GCF)

Programme Office International Climate Initiative: The International Climate Initiative (IKI) has now been running for five years - what has been achieved in this time?

Norbert Gorißen: The IKI has supported over 350 climate projects in emerging and developing countries. These include projects in the fields of reducing emissions, adapting to climate change and protecting biodiversity and forests.

Over the last five years, the IKI has also launched a number of activities and projects that assist developing countries in implementing and developing their own climate change mitigation programmes. It has helped to advance international climate change mitigation concepts and to build the necessary capacity in developing countries, thereby directly supporting the climate negotiation process.

What makes the IKI different from the many other international funding programmes?

We follow the 'polluter pays' principle, which means we use funds acquired from polluters via the auctioning of emissions allowances to make a direct contribution to mitigating climate change.

Our main goal has always been to protect the climate. Many other climate change mitigation and biodiversity programmes focus primarily on development cooperation, aiming first and foremost to support less developed countries in their economic and social development. While these programmes also aim to protect the climate and biodiversity, they do so from a different overall standpoint.

Our approach is more specific. We aim to advance climate change mitigation across the globe and to support developing countries that do not have sufficient resources and funds of their own in their efforts to combat climate change and conserve biodiversity. With this objective in mind, we develop projects that specifically promote climate change mitigation while also contributing to sustainable development in general.

Climate finance instruments often go unrecognised as such when projects primarily follow other development goals. For instance, a project in the agricultural sector that also has an adaptation component will probably be seen as an agricultural project rather than an adaptation project in the beneficiary country.

We consider it very important that climate change mitigation is recognised as a policy area in its own right and that this is reflected in legislation. If it is not, it will remain difficult to determine how much funding the world's industrialised countries are actually investing in climate change mitigation.

You witnessed the launch of the IKI in 2008. How did it come about?

It was decided in the German Parliament that emitter companies would have to buy ten per cent of their allowances under the European emissions trading scheme at auction, rather than these allowances being freely awarded. The income gained would be used to fund a climate initiative with both a national and an international component. As a result, in 2008 BMU's international climate change mitigation projects were given their own budget heading.

What has happened since then?

In early 2008, we found ourselves in a very small team faced with the task of spending EUR 120 million per year on climate change mitigation projects in developing countries. We had several good ideas following an initial brainstorming session, but had little experience when it came to implementation. We quickly realised we needed a support structure, and brought this about in the form of the Programme Office. We needed an executing agency, outside the Ministry, that would assess project proposals and put suitable applications forward for approval. At the time, our team consisted of just a few members of staff. Now, the Programme Office employs around 50 people.

Two key milestones in our development were setting up the Ideas Competition and taking the innovative step of launching a further competition among the implementing organisations. Over the years we have developed strong bilateral relations with a variety of individual developing countries and today we work in very close cooperation with a group of countries, providing them with continual political and strategic support in implementing the IKI portfolio.

What have been the main highlights for you since 2008?

The time I spent in the Philippines left a particularly lasting impression. In the mere 44 hours I spent there, I was able to hold a number of interesting and in-depth discussions. I met government-level decision-makers who were extremely committed to combating climate change and who were prepared to take genuine action to change climate policy in their country.

I was particularly struck by the enormity of the problems this country faces, and at the same time by the relatively small amount of international assistance available. It was very pleasing to see that the funds we do provide are deeply appreciated in the Philippines and that the resulting projects are carried out with great enthusiasm.

I am continually impressed by the capacity of IKI projects to change attitudes and build political commitment in governments, particularly in environment ministries. Environment ministries often lack power in developing countries, but the additional resources - generally human resources - that we provide can give them a significant boost and put them in a better position to take action on mitigating and adapting to climate change. It has been good to see our funds put to such positive use.

And what does the future hold for the IKI?

The IKI is a small but very effective and highly visible component of Germany's climate finance landscape. One of the main reasons I consider the IKI to be such an important instrument is that its core motivation is climate change mitigation itself. We need to keep pursuing this approach as we move forward. There will come a point where we will provide countries with specific funding for verifiable and measurable climate change mitigation activities such as reducing emissions, preventing deforestation and implementing adaptation measures.

This is a key aspect of climate change policy in the future. The concept of providing services and receiving others in return will certainly play an important role in the next climate change agreement. This approach can also serve as a model for multilateral climate finance instruments. I am a member of the board of the Green Climate Fund and can confirm that the Fund is also striving to establish a system of results-oriented payments whereby funds are only invested on condition of verifiable success.