Twenty-nine countries have jointly pledged more than $5 billion for the Global Environment Facility (GEF), providing a major boost to international efforts to protect biodiversity and curb threats from climate change, plastics, and toxic chemicals through collaborative action this decade.
The new support, totaling $5.25 billion, increases the GEF’s funding by nearly 30 percent compared to its most recent four-year operating cycle. It comes at a critical moment for developing countries whose ability to tackle worsening environmental challenges has been strained by fiscal pressures from the COVID-19 pandemic and rising inflation.
“This successful replenishment is not only important for the programmes and projects the GEF supports around the world and the global environmental benefits they yield. It is a strong signal that the international community is ready to work together on the tough challenges that require us all to be at the table, as we seek to restore the health of our planet and its people,” said Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, CEO and Chairperson of the GEF.
“The robust result of the GEF replenishment is one that we can all be immensely proud of as it strengthens the Global Environment Facility’s role in environmental action for the benefit of nature and humanity,” said Akihiko Nishio, World Bank Vice President of Development Finance and Co-Chair of the replenishment process. “The GEF has never been better suited to deal with global environmental challenges than at this moment, when the planet faces unprecedented risks and challenges.”
The GEF is the primary source of financing for biodiversity protection globally and is the only multilateral fund working across all aspects of environmental health.
Its financial and policy support helps developing countries meet their obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Minamata Convention on Mercury, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
“Small Island Developing States welcome the increased funding in the GEF’s eighth replenishment, which will facilitate enhanced ambition on many environmental fronts where transformational change is needed,” said Caroline Eugene, Saint Lucia’s former Operational Focal Point to the GEF who represented Small Island Developing States in the replenishment negotiations. “We applaud the efforts by the GEF to help align international and national priorities, and to work in an integrated way to achieve global environmental benefits and strengthen resilience in this post COVID-19 era.”
“Germany is a strong supporter of the Global Environment Facility, an institution that brings together countries and stakeholders to tackle environmental challenges in a way that others cannot. This strong GEF-8 replenishment is very good news for our joint efforts to address species loss, climate change, plastic pollution, and other threats that will require our full focus in the years ahead,” said Jürgen Zattler, Director-General for International Development Policy and United Nations, 2030 Agenda, and Social and Environmental Transformation in Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Biodiversity protection represents the biggest share of the GEF’s eighth programming period, known as GEF-8, which will run from July 2022 to June 2026. This support will be vital to the achievement of the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature, which aims to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030 through safeguards of land and ocean territory with globally important biodiversity.
Other priorities in GEF-8 include addressing threats from climate change, land degradation, and chemicals and waste, and alleviating pressures on the ocean and international waterways, with support for projects and programmes as well as international negotiations and their outcomes.
Much of the funding will be delivered through a set of 11 integrated programmes that address multiple threats at once, such as environmental degradation linked to cities, food systems, plastics, water, and forest management.
The GEF’s expanded support in the coming four years will be crucial for the implementation of the new Global Biodiversity Framework, which is expected to be agreed at the Convention on Biological Diversity COP-15 summit later this year in Kunming, China. Early action grants provided by the GEF in its seventh funding period have laid the groundwork for these efforts to reduce species loss and protect critical ecosystems.
“The GEF’s robust eighth replenishment is a strong signal of international commitment to taking action on ecosystems conservation and living in harmony in nature. We look forward to building on this momentum on the road to COP-15 and in pursuit of a new Global Biodiversity Framework whose implementation will benefit from GEF support,” said Yu Weiping, Chinese Vice Minister of Finance.
“We welcome the ambitious GEF-8 replenishment package and its enhanced focus on biodiversity,” said Sylvie Lemmet, French Ambassador for the Environment, adding:
“During the GEF-8 period, the share of funds dedicated to the biodiversity focal area will significantly increase to reach 36 percent of the total. In addition, the ambition is to have 60 percent of all GEF financing ensure co-benefits for biodiversity, with a specific focus on Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States. This tremendous effort reaffirms the commitment of the donor community to finance the implementation of an ambitious future post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework and the leading role of the GEF on biodiversity issues.”
“The ambitious GEF-8 replenishment is one of the main outcomes of the international momentum towards sustainable development and will be a good signal to the biodiversity COP-15 and to address plastics challenges,” said Lee White, Gabon’s Minister for Water, Forests, the Sea, and the Environment, speaking as regional representative of the GEF’s Africa constituency.
Since it was launched in 1991, the GEF has provided nearly $22 billion in grants and mobilised another $119 billion in co-financing to address environmental threats and protect biodiverse areas, on land and at sea. GEF investments have also averted more than 9 billion tons of carbon emissions to date and have helped Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States bolster their defenses against climate change and other threats.
In its upcoming operating period, the GEF will continue to prioritise blended finance solutions and private sector engagement to mobilise additional funding for biodiversity, nature, and climate change. It will also work with governments to facilitate efficient, targeted funding, with engagement through an enhanced Country Support Programme as well as knowledge exchange and learning initiatives connecting the GEF’s 184 member countries.
“Brazil has a long history of partnership with the Global Environment Facility, not only as one of the major recipient countries but also as a donor. We are pleased to continue to work as a donor to GEF-8 and see an ambitious replenishment as an opportunity to reinforce the key role of the fund as a provider of means of implementation to all developing countries with the aim of delivering global environmental benefits,” said Renato Barros de Aguiar Leonardi, Brazil’s GEF Council Member.
“We are very happy to support a robust replenishment for GEF-8. The programming directions and the policy package represent a consensus among all stakeholders in upholding and strengthening the GEF’s mandate. We are confident that GEF-8 will be a watershed in reaching our goal of Healthy Planet and Healthy People,” said India’s GEF Council Member, Rajesh Kullar.
“The GEF’s capacity to innovate is needed to find solutions that combine public and private sources of financing. With the vote of confidence signaled by this strong replenishment, the GEF work will continue to lead the way in blended finance for climate, and SDGs 14 and 15 – life below water, and life on land,” said Joan Larrea, CEO of Convergence and a Member of the GEF’s Advisory Group of Financial Experts.
Also core to the GEF’s approach is a commitment to work closely with and learn from Indigenous Peoples, local communities, young people, and women across all projects and programmes, including through the Small Grants Programme which supports grassroots initiatives.
“Civil society organisations are essential to global efforts to address environmental challenges and will play a central role in ensuring that GEF-supported initiatives have their fullest impact in the critical years ahead. On behalf of the more than 500 civil society organisations that make up the GEF CSO Network, I would like to note with appreciation the size and ambition of this new support, and the commitment to work with all stakeholders in pursuit of game-changing outcomes,” said Sano Akhteruzzaman, Chair of the GEF CSO Network.
The joint pledges were made at the conclusion of five negotiating sessions between the GEF’s donors, which include both developed and developing countries. Further donations are expected to be made by the GEF Council meeting in June, when individual country pledges will be publicly announced.
All of the GEF-8 replenishment negotiations were held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They included representatives of civil society, other environmental financiers including the Adaptation Fund and Green Climate Fund, and the GEF’s recipient countries and 18 implementing agency partners.