Close to $1bn approved for environment, climate action

Countries have approved programmes and projects worth almost $1 billion to tackle growing threats to the environment 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 this week, it was announced on Saturday.

India, among the world’s most vulnerable countries to climate change, is both a donor and a recipient of GEF funds, an international partnership of 183 countries.

The new projects 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 programmes adding up to a further $101.57 million.

The GEF was established on the eve of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit to help tackle the planet’s most pressing environmental problems.

In remarks at the end of the meetings, GEF CEO and Chairperson Naoko Ishii said the new work programmes pursue a new approach being pioneered by the GEF, and signify “a new way of doing business”, adding that it was “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 maximize impacts, and integration as an effective way of delivery.”

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 Programsme, which bring together governments and the private sector to work jointly 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 having devastating effects on impacts on the populations of many species.

Yet another will be the first global inter-agency program 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.