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56th GEF meeting: $1bn approved for environment, climate action

Governments have approved programmes and projects worth almost $1 billion to tackle growing threats to the natural world – and to help some of the Earth’s most vulnerable people adapt to climate change – at two consecutive Global Environment Facility (GEF) meetings in Washington DC from June 11 to 13, 2019 .

GEF CSO
Naoko Ishii, GEF CEO and Chairperson, delivers her opening address during the CSO Dialogue

They range from an ambitious $232 million integrated programme aimed at a “transformational shift in the agriculture and land use systems that are major drivers of environmental degradation around the world” to helping fishing people in Timor-Leste, improving the management of soils in Caribbean islands, and tackling the illegal world wildlife trade.

The 56th GEF Council meeting passed its biggest ever work programme, totalling $865.9 million from its Trust Fund. It was then followed by a meeting of two smaller GEF funds – the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) and the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) – which approved work programs adding up to a further $101.57 million.

In remarks at the end of the meetings, Naoko Ishii, GEF CEO and Chairperson, said the new work programmes pursue a new approach being pioneered by the GEF, and signify “a new way of doing business,” and, she added, “a new phase for GEF’s strategy and implementation.”

“We at the GEF have been evolving our strategy over the past few years,” Ishii said earlier in the week. “The GEF 2020 strategy adopted by the Council in 2014 shifted our focus from symptoms to causes or drivers of environmental degradation.  Transformation, or systems change, is a centrepiece of our efforts to maximise impacts, and integration as an effective way of delivery.”

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This approach lies at the heart of the GEF’s $4.1 billion seventh funding cycle, GEF-7, which started in June 2018. It is particularly exemplified in the new GEF Trust Fund work programme – which will benefit 91 countries – by four new Impact Programs, which bring together governments and the private sector to work collaboratively on common environmental challenges to have direct effects at regional and global scales on ecology, economics and societies.

Besides the Impact Programmes, another project will develop local economies in Africa, Asia and Latin America to provide alternative sources of income and thus counter the illegal wildlife trade which is said to be having devastating effects on impacts on the populations of many species. Yet another will be the first global inter-agency programme of its kind to focus primarily on increasing electric mobility in developing countries. And a third will work in 27 small island states (SIDS) around the globe to prevent the build-up of harmful chemicals in the environment and to manage and dispose of existing stockpiles of them.

At the second meeting of the week, 11 projects were approved for the LDCF, which targets the needs of the world’s poorest nations in adapting to climate change. These ranged from promoting climate-resilient urban development in Pacific island nations to improving the availability of water in The Gambia, from strengthening the resilience of coastal communities in Togo to increasing the ability of fishing communities in Timor-Leste to adapt, be resilient and conserve biodiversity.

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In all, these projects are expected to benefit 2.1 million people (half of them women), bring 608,509 hectares of land under climate-resilient management, provide 58,360 people with greater capacity to identify risks from the changing climate, and take measures to adapt, and affects 101 policies, plans and development frameworks.

The same meeting also backed a project under the SCCF which focuses on innovation, technology transfer and the engagement of the private sector. This is an initiative to manage soil, so as to restore landscapes in an integrated way and produce climate-resilient food systems in Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica and St Lucia. It will also train a thousand people in identifying, and adapting to, climate risks.

Gustavo Fonseca, the GEF’s Director of Programmes, said, “LDCs and SIDS are very exposed to irreversible damage to the development gains they have achieved, something that they cannot afford. The question of adapting to climate change is now on everyone’s mind.”

The 56th GEF Council meeting and the 26th LDCF/SCCF meeting was co-chaired by Naoko Ishii and Ms. Carola van Rijnsoever, GEF Council Member from the Netherlands.

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As part of the 56th Council meeting, the GEF held consultations with Civil Society Organisations on June 10. The event this year focuses on plastic pollution.

Other issues on the Council agenda included updates on various policies and operational matters, as well as reports from the GEF Independent Evaluation Office and the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP).

GEF’s four new Impact Programmes

The Food Systems, Land Use and Restoration (FOLUR) Impact Programme is the biggest. Focusing on 18 countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Pacific – which include major producers of palm oil, rice, cocoa, coffee, wheat and cattle – it sets out to transform food production and land use systems, major causes of global environmental degradation.

The three others focus on sustainable forest management (SFM). The first, the SFM Amazon Sustainable Landscapes Impact Programme, will be carried out in seven countries – Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru and Suriname – covering some 92 per cent of the Amazon basin. It sets out to increase the area under effective conservation, reduce deforestation, promote sustainable use and restoration of native vegetation and management of freshwater ecosystems, and ensure the conservation of species, habitats, ecosystem services and cultural values.

The SFM Congo Basin Sustainable Landscapes Impact Programme aims to help protect the world’s second largest rainforest to deal with threats from mining, industrial agriculture, oil exploration and logging by empowering local communities and pioneering an alternative pathway to development.

And the SFM Impact Programme on Dryland Sustainable Landscapes aims to avoid, reduce and reverse further deforestation, degradation, and desertification in the drylands – concentrating on areas in southern and western Africa and Central Asia, but envisaging their sustainable management on a global scale.

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