The 55th Global Environment Facility (GEF) Council meeting wrapped up on Thursday, December 20 2018 following the approval of its first work programme under its new, four-year investment cycle, known as GEF-7, and a series of decisions that will firm up its implementation policies and procedures.
The work programme, made up of 18 different projects benefiting 25 countries around the world, will require $157.8 million, and is expected to attract an indicative $819.7 million in financing from other sources.
Closing the meeting, Naoko Ishii, GEF CEO and Chairperson, thanked council members for the “extensive, rich and fruitful three days.” Repeating her call at the Council opening for “urgent action to get back on track”, she said much progress has been made, and “now GEF-7 can start!”
“We have reviewed different policies and modified them to provide a framework that will make the GEF work better,” said Abdul Bakarr Salim, Deputy Director of the Environment Protection Agency, Sierra Leone, and co-chairperson of the 55th GEF Council.
The three-day Council meeting, the first to be held since governments endorsed the new GEF-7 strategy and the accompanying $4.1 billion replenishment of its trust fund, approved various measures to further improve the GEF’s efficiency, accountability and transparency.
This includes new policy procedures to speed up the preparation, endorsement, implementation, and closure of projects, and, among other things, new policies to improve access to information, and an updated policy on environmental and social safeguards throughout the GEF project and programme cycle.
The Council received reports from the GEF’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel, Independent Evaluation Office, and held discussions on GEF’s relations with multilateral environmental agreements, the GEF-7 Non-Grant Instrument Programme, and options for responsible investment of funds in the GEF Trust Fund.
Following the well-received special session on gender at this year’s Civil Society (CSO) Forum, the Council decided that plastics management to avoid pollution would be the topic for the CSO consultation at the 56th GEF Council meeting in June 2019.
Immediately following the 55th GEF Council, a meeting of the 25th Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) / Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) Council was held. The first work programme in GEF-7 for LDCF, consisting of six projects and requesting a total of $45.85 million, was approved.
In a demonstration of growing support for adaptation efforts by some of the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change, the following pledges were announced by council members on behalf of their governments.
For LDCF: Belgium, Walloon Region (€2.9 million), Denmark (Kr.150 million), Finland (€2 million), France (€20 million), and The Netherlands ($9.1 million). Switzerland announced a commitment of $13.25 million over four years to the LDCF and SCCF, with 75% going to the LDCF. Sweden highlighted its contribution of kr135 million to LDCF in 2018. Germany will finalise its contribution payments of €25 million before the end of the year.
Specific projects include: the long-term conservation and management of critical and threatened sites and species along the globally important East Asia-Australasian Flyway, by establishing a robust, resilient, and well-managed network of protected wetlands for endangered migratory water birds in China; transforming Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt into a sustainable tourism city by a whole host of measures including promoting low-carbon urban development, renewable energy generation, better waste management and recycling, and protecting the sea and coastal areas; and tackling substantial and alarming environmental degradation from pollution and overfishing in Africa’s Lake Victoria.
Two projects in Chile will support decarbonisation by fostering deployment of district energy systems which can cut emissions by 90 per cent and improve catching and management practices in fisheries over 1.7 million hectares of sea. Another two, in Turkey, will promote replacing persistent organic pollutants with environmentally sound alternatives in its extruded and expanded polystyrene foam industries and increasing the use of wood in buildings, thus reducing the embedded carbon content of construction materials.
Two more will tackle mercury pollution in Mexico and Argentina, while a regional project in Central Asia will assess and address the impact of climate change on glaciers in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. The last project represents the first half of an allocation of $128 million under GEF-7 for the Small Grants Programme to provide grants to civil society and community-based organisations tackling global environmental issues in 107 countries.