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Nations Pledge Billions to Protect Planet

Small-scale purse seine fishers catch cuttlefish in Van Phong Bay, central Vietnam, September 11, 2009. (Photo by David Mills / World Fish Center) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Small-scale purse seine fishers catch cuttlefish in Van Phong Bay, central Vietnam, September 11, 2009. (Photo by David Mills / World Fish Center) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

DA NANG, Vietnam, June 28, 2018 ( News) – This is “a critical moment for the future of our planet and its people,” Naoko Ishii, CEO and chair of the Global Environment Facility, told the opening session of the GEF Council Sunday in Da Nang. The GEF is a major impact investor in environmental programs worldwide.

Addressing the Council in advance of the GEF Assembly June 27-28 in Da Nang, Ishii called on governments to take “urgent action to reverse deterioration of the global environment.”

“We know that the global environment continues to deteriorate, and that it is becoming even more urgent for us to take action. So, our ambitions for impact must be even higher. We must aim to do even more,” she said.

The GEF is an international partnership of 183 countries, international institutions, civil society organizations and the private sector that addresses global environmental issues.

Since its establishment in 1991, the GEF has provided over US$17.9 billion in grants and mobilized an additional $93.2 billion in co-financing for more than 4,500 projects in 170 countries.

Reflecting on what the GEF has achieved, she said the experiences “will all help the GEF become even more effective and efficient in the coming years.”

It is “extremely urgent,” Ishii explained, to come together to transform key economic systems, like food and land use, energy, cities and patterns of production and consumption. The GEF will continue to offer “innovative programs” to support countries in doing this,” Ishii told the GEF Council.

This spring, some 30 countries jointly pledged a record US$4.1 billion to the GEF to better protect the future of the planet and human well-being.

With the health of the global environment worsening, the GEF has received strong support for its new four-year investment cycle, known as GEF-7, to help safeguard the world’s forests, land, water, climate, and oceans, build green cities, protect threatened wildlife, and tackle new environmental threats like marine plastic pollution.

The GEF-7 replenishment will be formally concluded at the GEF Assembly June 27-28.

“We are pleased with the outcome of the negotiations; it is entirely in line with government priorities,” said Isabella Lovin, Deputy Prime Minister and Climate Minister of Sweden, who hosted a donors meeting in April.

“Also, the Fund’s working methods have been further strengthened, giving it more of a strategic climate focus and increased resources, including for biodiversity, chemicals and waste,” said Lovin.

“A clear majority of donors have stepped up their support for the GEF, signaling the urgency of the global environmental agenda, and trust in the GEF to help tackle the problem and achieve even greater results,” said Ishii. “We need to forge the partnerships that will help transform the food, urban and energy systems in an integrated way. GEF-7 is designed to do just that.”

Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, who delivered the Welcome Address at the Opening Ceremony on Wednesday, said that the GEF Assembly, “is an occasion for nations as well as individuals to join hands and to act to realize our shared aspirations for a resilient, sustainable and life-affirming planet.”

“Over almost three decades the Global Environment Facility has done exactly that – has joined hands to seize the opportunity to tackle the enormous environmental challenges of our age, and has done so on a global scale, particularly in developing countries, including Vietnam,” said the Prime Minister.

In the final disbursement of GEF-6, agreed at the Council meeting, local communities in Africa will be helped to preserve their tropical rainforests, the world’s second smallest nation will be assisted in switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy and 13 governments will be supported in preparing reports on the progress they are making to combat climate change.

These projects will cost US$64 million, but the GEF is expected to mobilize an additional US$300 million in co-financing.

These projects include 13,000 hectares of tropical moist forest to be put under sustainable communal management in Equatorial Guinea, where forests are being lost and degraded, especially forests whose communities do not feel involved in managing them.

A WWF/GEF project will be the first joint attempt by India and Bhutan to address a growing common risk to the  rich biodiversity of the Manas River basin which straddles the border between the two countries.

The eight nations bordering the Bay of Bengal have joined to develop a program for ocean governance that will conserve a region rich in marine resources on which some 450 million people depend. The project will address the three major pressures facing shared ocean ecosystems: unsustainable fisheries, pollution, and the destruction of habitat, while improving livelihoods and increasing resilience.

For the next four years, the GEF will turn its attention to projects covered under the GEF-7 funding. With an emphasis on addressing the drivers of environmental degradation, gender equality, and stronger collaboration with the private sector, the GEF says it is now “poised to deliver even greater results for the environment, and better value for money.”

The new strategy doubles the target for greenhouse gas emissions mitigated from GEF projects compared to the last funding cycle, and increases by almost 50 percent the targets for the protection of biodiversity and valuable ecosystems.

The health of oceans and fisheries will be a central topic during the GEF Assembly in Da Nang. High-level roundtable discussions on the blue economy, the circular economy and a systematic approach to address marine plastics will help identify options and approaches for integrating efforts across the entire supply chain to mitigate threats posed by plastics in the ocean.

“Over the last 25 years the GEF has been an essential mechanism for addressing environmental challenges at a multilateral level and has made a great difference,” said Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank vice president, development finance, and co-chair of the replenishment meeting.

“Today, the international community again gave GEF a strong vote of confidence through the endorsement of a $4.1 billion financial support package for the next four years,” he said. “With this renewed mandate, GEF will be able to continue its important role as an impact investor in environmental programs around the globe.”

The new funding will support countries to meet their obligations under various multilateral environmental agreements, including the recently adopted Minamata Convention on Mercury, the three Rio Conventions on Biodiversity, Climate, and Land Degradation, and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

Also, strong emphasis is given to financing for Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States.

“Cote d’Ivoire is pleased to return as a donor in GEF-7. The first major conference of the GEF took place in Abidjan in December 1992 under the leadership of HE Mr. Alassane Ouattara, then Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire. Now, as President of the Republic, he has been instrumental in the return of Cote d’Ivoire as a donor in GEF-7,” said Adama Koné, minister of economy and finance for Côte d’Ivoire.

“Cote d’Ivoire welcomes and strongly supports GEF-7 Impact programs and strategies aimed at addressing the concerns of the beneficiary countries while maximizing the global environmental benefits,” he said.

In recent years, the world agreed on the Global Goals of Agenda 2030, and the Paris Agreement, elevating the ambition and action needed to put the world on a sustainable path. GEF-7 is the first replenishment of the GEF after these landmark agreements and a sign that the world is responding.

“The Global Environment Facility’s new focus on transforming food systems, sustainable forest management, and cities is not only good for the planet and human well-being, but an enormous business opportunity,” said Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever.

“This is an exciting moment for the GEF, which is tackling complex problems by inviting stronger collaboration with the private sector,” said Polman. “Business can help innovate, finance and scale solutions for environmental sustainability, which in turn can open up better and more inclusive growth opportunities.”

GEF-7 comes at a critical time for the world, and will help ensure that the hopes and aspirations of millions of people are met without stretching Earth to a breaking point.

“Countries have given a central role to the Global Environment Facility in helping to transform our economies and to safeguard the global commons – the land, seas and atmosphere we share, and the ecosystems they host,” said Nicholas Stern, who chairs the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics.

“Protecting and nurturing our global commons and ecosystems is fundamental to sustainable growth and poverty reduction. No other kind of growth can last,” said Stern. “This is the growth story of the 21st century.”

“The next 15 years will decide the future of the world for the rest of the century and beyond,” predicted Stern. “The cost of inaction is immense. Congratulations to the entire GEF partnership for adopting this ambitious new agenda.”

Featured Images: Global Environment Facility CEO and Chairperson Naoko Ishii opens the 54th GEF Council in Da Nang, Vietnam, June 24, 2018 (Photo courtesy GEF) Posted for media use