Countries gather for landmark GEF Council meeting



New impact programs at heart of largest-ever proposed work program


Delegates are arriving in Washington DC for one of the most important Council meetings in the history of the Global Environment Facility (GEF). It is expected to mark a pioneering shift of emphasis for the organization that was established on the eve of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit to help tackle our planet’s most pressing environmental problems.


The GEF's 56th Council meeting, hosted at the World Bank’s headquarters from June 11 to 13, perhaps more than any of its predecessors, directly addresses the scientific consensus that the natural world, and the Earth's systems, are under serious attack. It is being asked to approve the largest program of work in the funder's history and one that addresses the need for comprehensive and transformational worldwide change more than ever before.


Key to the $865.9 million work program, which if approved will be the largest single batch of projects and program ever in the history of the GEF, are four “Impact Programs”. These set out to bring countries together in an integrated approach directed at tackling the drivers of environmental destruction, and not just its symptoms. They have been born of a realization, endorsed by the Council at previous meetings that, while more than quarter of a century of GEF individual projects have many successes, these have not been enough decisively to shift the needle in the right direction, let alone deliver the scale of change the deteriorating state of the world demands.


The Council meets against the background of a series of authoritative warnings about the plight of the global commons, the shared resources that ensure a habitable planet upon which we can all thrive: clean air and water, biodiversity, healthy land and oceans, and a stable climate.


Last month, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services warned that human activities threaten one million species worldwide with extinction. And, the UN Environment's latest Global Environment Outlook report, published in March, concluded that this unfolding “major species extinction event”, compromises “planetary integrity and Earth's capacity to meet human needs”.


Last year, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change showed that rapid and far reaching changes in energy, land-use, cities and infrastructure are needed if global warming is to be kept to the necessary 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times. And at the beginning of this year, the World Economic Forum's Global Risk Report showed that five of the ten top global risks identified by business leaders are related to the environment.


The Council's response stems from its adoption, in 2014, of the GEF 2020 strategy which embraced the need to focus on drivers and systems transformation. It runs through its new $4.1 billion four-year funding cycle, GEF-7, which started in July 2018 and has the Impact Programs at its heart.



These are deeply collaborative, bringing together countries to work on common environmental challenges collectively and cooperatively with direct effects on ecology, economics and societies at regional and global scales. They will robustly involve the private sector – key to the market transformation that will be needed - global expert organizations, and other ministries in national governments – such as those for agriculture, land use and rural development - beyond the environment ones that have normally carried out projects in the past.



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