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The Power of Thirty: Joint Commitment to the Global Environment Facility and Why It Matters

By - May 14 2014

GEFThe afternoon of April 16th was no average spring day in Geneva. Rather, it saw 30 donor countries come together for a historic replenishment of the Global Environment Facility (GEF). Given in the form of US$4.43 billion, this contribution supports developing countries’ efforts to prevent substantial degradation of the global environment. But, aside from the sheer amount of this pledge, what is so special about this latest replenishment of the GEF? If we had to sum it up in two words, they would be innovation and partnership.

Replenishment - within text

From Left: Bruno Oberle, Swiss State Secretary of the Environment, Naoko Ishii, CEO & Chairperson of the GEF, and Joachim von Amsberg, Vice President for Concessional Finance and Global Partnerships in the World Bank Group, during meeting on the 6th capitalization of the GEF.

Innovation: The Name of the Game   

Intended to back the GEF-6 program, which targets a larger share of the resources to lower-income countries and furthers work in gender mainstreaming, the GEF-6 itself is characterized by innovation. Present in its focus on the drivers of environmental degradation, developing sustainable cities, and at taking deforestation out of the global commodity supply chains, the GEF-6 is also innovative in its vision of stronger collaboration with the private sector and civil society. Additionally, the program demonstrates a greater resolve on results and on procuring higher levels of co-financing which, as detailed in the IDB’s 2013 Partnership Report, makes for longer-term, more sustainable development financing that advances social and environmental objectives while allowing the donor to meet its “bottom-line.”  GEF-6, also agreed to new financing in support of the Minamata convention on Mercury, which aims to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury, and which is explained thoroughly here by Dr. Naoki Ishii, CEO and Chairperson of the GEF, upon the 6th capitalization of the GEF.

Why is this replenishment so important? Ultimately, this replenishment represents both a clear commitment on the part of the global community to reversing negative environmental trends, and its trust in the ability of the GEF and its partners to execute the needed changes. Such trust stems from the GEF’s trajectory in protecting the global environment, its efforts in promoting innovation and integrated approaches, and its rigorous management of partner funding. This replenishment comes at a time when available public and private funding is insufficient to reverse such trends, and after the GEF’s financial reach was affected by the global economic crisis. In 2010, the World Bank estimated that around $100 billion a year would be needed to address mitigation and adaptation needs alone.

The Power of Partnership

Furthermore, this generous replenishment proves the power of partnering for, in this case, environmental development and protection. The GEF unites 183 countries in partnership with international organizations, civil society, and the private sector to tackle global environmental challenges. Tapping into the resources of this extensive partnership network, it is able to provide funding for projects in biodiversity, climate change, international waters, land degradation, the ozone layer, and persistent organic pollutants. Since 1991, the GEF has provided $12.5 billion in grants in over 165 countries, reinforcing its position as the main global mechanism to support developing countries as they meet their commitments under the world’s main multilateral environmental agreements.

A Decade of the IDB and the GEF

The IDB-GEF partnership dates back to the year 2000, at which time the IDB became an executing agency of its activities. Today, the GEF is one of the main sources of grant funding for IDB’s work in the environment sector. As of today, IDB-GEF lifetime approvals add up to US$132.5 million in projects, and US$5.7 million in Project Preparation Grants. Total approvals from 2007 through 2013 represent a 105% increment in the number of projects, when compared to those for 2001-2006, and a 423% increase in the total amount approved.  On the other hand, the IDB-GEF portfolio focuses on Climate Change (38%); Multi-Focal Areas (14%); Biodiversity (31%); and International Waters (17%). It aligns clearly with GCI-9 goals.  Of note is that IDB’s share of the 5th GEF capitalization (GEF-5) increased vis a vis that of other agencies, including the World Bank, and is currently 25% of GEF-5 funding.

Note: A special thanks to Sergio Zwi for providing the above statistical data. 

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