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Press Release

GEF Challenge Program for Adaptation Innovation names 10 new winners

November 8, 2021

The Global Environment Facility has announced 10 new winners of its Challenge Program for Adaptation Innovation, a competition that provides seed funding for innovative initiatives designed to help vulnerable countries cope with the worsening climate crisis.

The project concepts selected in the Challenge Program’s second round were submitted by BFA Global, BNP Paribas, CropIn, Earth Security, the Grameen Crédit Agricole Microfinance Foundation, Heifer International, the Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, Winrock International, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and the World Resources Institute.

A total of 418 submissions were received in the GEF’s latest call for proposals, spanning a wide range of fields and sectors. Each winning concept will be eligible to receive grants from the GEF-hosted Special Climate Change Fund and Least Developed Countries Fund, which have over the past 20 years provided targeted financing for climate resilience projects in developing and low-income countries.

GEF CEO and Chairperson Carlos Manuel Rodriguez said the strong interest in the competition reflected the potential for the private sector to invest and engage much more in climate resilience solutions, particularly in developing countries where adaptation needs are enormous.

“The toughest environmental challenges in front of us – including how to cope with climate change – require the brightest minds at the table. It is truly encouraging to see this competition draw in so many world-class companies, financial institutions, and technology developers with excellent ideas about how to build more climate-resilient societies, supply chains, food systems, and economies,” Rodriguez said. “When the GEF launched the Challenge Program for Adaptation Innovation two years ago, it opened the door to new partnerships that are making a real difference in the developing countries and Least Developed Countries whose environmental ambitions need urgent support.” 

The Challenge Program for Adaptation Innovation’s first cohort of nine winning project concepts were announced at the 25th UN climate change summit, held in Madrid in 2019. Those climate adaptation initiatives are being led by partners including Clarmondial, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Nespresso, South Pole, and Willis Towers Watson, alongside GEF implementing agencies.

The latest ten winners, announced during the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, will be eligible for grants of between $440,000 and $1.3 million each, once fully approved. The total GEF support from this round of the competition will be $10 million.

The new proposed projects aim to improve access to capital, fintech, and financial services, including for smallholder farmers transitioning to climate adaptation practices; create a nature-based private financing facility for coastal cities in Least Developed Countries; develop more resilient supply chains through the systematic use of climate data, standards, and certification; support climate-resilient rice landscapes; and expand investment flows into climate adaptation measures, including through new insurance instruments.

As in the first round, each initiative will be developed and implemented in partnership with one of the GEF’s 18 official implementing agencies, including Conservation International, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

The GEF supports climate adaptation efforts mainly through the LDCF and SCCF. Since their inception in 2001, they have provided $2 billion in grant financing and mobilized another $13 billion from other sources to reduce the vulnerability of approximately 60 million people in 118 countries. The LDCF provides targeted support to Least Developed Countries, and the SCCF is focused on innovation that can increase developing countries’ climate resilience at scale, in partnership with the private sector.


About the Global Environment Facility

The Global Environment Facility was established 30 years ago to tackle our planet’s most pressing environmental problems. Since then, it has provided more than $21.5 billion in grants and mobilized an additional $117 billion in co-financing for more than 5,000 projects and programs. The GEF is the largest multilateral trust fund focused on enabling developing countries to invest in nature and supports the implementation of major international environmental conventions including on biodiversity, climate change, chemicals, and desertification. It brings together 184 member governments in addition to civil society, international organizations, and private sector partners. Through its Small Grants Programme, the GEF has provided support to 25,000 civil society and community initiatives in 135 countries.

About the Least Developed Countries Fund

The GEF-managed Least Developed Countries Fund was created in 2001 to enable the world’s most climate-vulnerable countries to invest in a more resilient future. It is the only climate resilience fund that exclusively targets the Least Developed Countries. Over the past two decades, the LDCF has provided $1.7 billion in grants for 360 projects tailored to LDCs’ climate adaptation priorities across diverse landscapes and sectors, also helping countries bolster their planning to address urgent climate resilience needs. LDCF-supported projects have reduced the climate vulnerability of more than 50 million people and strengthened the climate resilient management of 6 million hectares of land to date.

About the Special Climate Change Fund

The GEF-managed Special Climate Change Fund has two decades of experience helping vulnerable countries adapt to a changing climate, focusing on bankable, innovative solutions that can be scaled. Since 2001, the SCCF has invested more than $360 million in adaptation measures that have benefited more than 7 million people and increased private sector engagement in climate resilience products and services. Through the SCCF, donor governments have supported the training of more than 200,000 people, expanded access to climate information services, and provided flexible solutions to enable developing countries including small island states to adapt to a fast-changing climate.


Quotes and details about winning project concepts:

BFA GLOBAL – Acceleration of Fintech Enabled Climate Resilience Solutions
Media contact: Bethany Kanten bkanten@bfaglobal.com

“Climate change is already disrupting the financial health of vulnerable communities in emerging markets. For these communities to thrive despite climate change, modern finance needs to develop new ways to help strengthen their resilience and adapt to the changing conditions. We are thrilled to receive the GEF's catalytic support as we launch an innovation ecosystem that we hope can rise to this monumental challenge and create commensurable opportunities.” - David del Ser, Chair and Chief Innovation Officer at BFA Global

Together with the 50+ organizations participating in the Digital Finance For Climate Resilience initiative and the members of its Task Force (PayPal, UN Race to Resilience, CGAP, WRI, BTCA), BFA Global is launching an ecosystem for innovation that can explore the opportunities and solutions at the intersection of modern finance and climate action, centered on vulnerable communities in emerging markets. The open ecosystem will be seeded by a set of interrelated components that propel the participating organizations towards concerted action. A central component will focus on accelerating 100 startups over 5 years to refine their products and scale them, following the learn-by-doing approach developed by the Catalyst Fund. We will also operate mechanisms to launch new startups for exponential action as well as collaborations with established incumbents. Finally, we will continue to grow and evolve the ecosystem to boost our collective work towards providing resilient solutions to 4 billion people by 2030.

BNP PARIBAS – Certification of Nature-based Solutions Portfolios of Inclusive Financial Service Providers for Scaling Climate Change Adaptation and Biodiversity Finance for Smallholder Farmers
Media contact: Astrid Sancho astrid.sancho@bnpparibas.com

“BNP Paribas is excited to be offered the opportunity to pioneer nature-based solutions portfolio monitoring and certification for inclusive financial service providers. Their direct relationship with smallholders and rural households is crucial for all the value chain and meets the sector needs to progress on climate change adaptation and biodiversity conservation.” - Antoine Sire, Member of the Executive Committee and Head of Company Engagement - BNP Paribas

This project aims to mainstream adaptation finance towards Inclusive Financial Service Providers (IFSPs) thanks to a robust portfolio certification scheme enabling them to transparently support their rural clients' Nature-based Solution (NbS) and climate change adaptation practices. The NbS portfolio certification scheme will be built on the IUCN Global Standard for Nature-based Solutions, aligned with the EU Sustainable Finance Taxonomy. Furthermore, it will also draw on the already existing and proven UNEP MEbA project methodologies to which BNP Paribas has already contributed together with its partner YAPU Solutions. "Climate Change Adaption Certification” of several IFSPs' portfolio will catalyse much needed private and public investors' funding in a transparent and harmonized manner, it will strengthened IFSPs internal capacity to offer NbS finance product to their rural and smallholder customers, and support their adaptation to climate change and the conservation of biodiversity.

CROPIN – SMARTFARM
Media contact: Arjun Goyal arjun.goyal@cropin.com

“CropIn is excited about the partnership with the GEF’s Least Developed Countries Fund, which will allow us to build a sustainable, replicable and scalable climate change adaptation and resilience model for smallholder farmers in three least developed countries. CropIn will be harnessing digital technologies, in situ climate data, and analytics with focused human efforts on our flagship digital platform SMARTFARM.” – Kunal Prasad, Co-Founder & COO CropIn Technology Solutions

CropIn, a global full stack Ag-tech organization, through its innovative and collaborative digital platform, SMARTFARM, will combine digital technologies and services; big data analysis of in-situ, satellite, and climate projection data on a regional and hyper local weather level; and  focused human efforts of 2000 agri-entrepreneurs built on digital technology training, actionable insights and advisories to increase climate change adaptation and resilience of 200,000 smallholder farmers in three Least Developed Countries in Africa, across six agri-value chains ​​(cotton, cocoa, cashew, cassava, maize, rice) over a period of two years.  The climate adaptation model will serve as a farm as well as farmer management solution which is replicable at the policy and institutional levels bringing cost-effective, data-driven, scalable, and real-time collaborative digital agri-food system. The advanced phase of engagement will entail promoting intra-engagement for financial and market linkage leading to long term asset creation and sustainability for all agriculture value chain actors including women and youth.

EARTH SECURITY– A Nature-based Private Investment Facility for Climate Resilience in Coastal LDC Cities
Media contacts: Adam von Haffner adam@earthsecurity.org and Sue Howells sue@earthsecurity.org

“Companies and investors can help to build the coastal resilience of LDCs in which they operate through investments in natural capital. Building an investment facility to enable this at scale is a win-win for climate resilience, for local communities, for companies' operations, and for nature.” – Alejandro Litovsky, Founder and CEO of Earth Security

The project develops a global investment facility that enables global companies with operations, assets and value chains in LDCs to fund nature-based solutions that can increase the climate resilience and adaptation of coastal LDC cities. The growing exposure of coastal regions to climate change means that nature-based solutions such as mangroves and coral reefs offer these countries a cheaper and more effective tool to increase their climate resilience than cement seawalls or other types of grey infrastructure, while providing more value for local communities and biodiversity. However, LDCs currently face significant barriers to accessing finance, and not just for climate adaptation. Earth Security, an innovative agency working with banks, companies and governments to link global finance to nature’s capital, brings the agility needed to develop new pathways for the private sector to play a more active role in the climate adaptation of LDCs. The project designs, develops and launches a global facility to enable companies to invest in nature-based coastal climate adaptation in LDC cities, while contributing to the companies’ own resilience in lowering the climate risk exposure of their operations and supply chains.

GRAMEEN CREDIT AGRICOLE FOUNDATION - Indicators Framework for Climate Adaptation and Biodiversity Conservation Finance for Smallholders To Leverage Private and Public Finance
Media contact: Cécile Delhomme cecile.delhomme@credit-agricole-sa.fr

“Initially, the Foundation will set up a blended finance vehicle and pilot this triple assistance programme (financial, technical and technological) with four microfinance institutions. We then want to engage other actors to use this vehicle and the proposed tools. It’s fully part of our strategy to support our partners to strengthen their adaptation to climate change in serving smallholders and rural communities.” Eric Campos, Managing Director, Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation

This project aims to provide public and private actors with common intervention frameworks, indicators and specific products so that Financial Service Providers (FSPs) can have financial, technical and technological support to accompany the adaptation to climate change and biodiversity conservation for their clients, especially the most vulnerable: small producers and rural communities. Little public and private financing exists today for climate change adaptation and biodiversity conservation, especially for the inclusive finance sector. One of the main reasons for this is that the sector lacks common framework and indicators to assess the opportunity of FSPs to develop and scale up this type of offer. To address this issue, the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation has established, with the technical coordination of its partner YAPU Solutions, a coalition, together with five other institutes including BNP Paribas, the “Climate & Biodiversity Positive Initiative for Smallholder Finance.” The approach draws on existing and proven UNEP MEbA project methodologies and the Green Index 3.0 of the GICSF-AG. The scope is support FSPs to monitor and improve the climate change resilience and biodiversity impacts of their institution and their clients. The present project builds on these preliminary experiences and it aims to roll-out this approach for the benefit of the full inclusive finance sector. This approach is fully complementary with BNP Paribas’ project aiming to develop a portfolio certification scheme based on nature-based solutions and climate change adaptation practices.

HEIFER INTERNATIONAL – Building Climate Resilience in Supply Chains for the Mobilization of Adaptation Financing
Media contact: Chris Coxon Chris.Coxon@heifer.org

“Heifer International is pleased to partner with the GEF to develop the Adaptation Equivalency Index.  This innovative tool will help reduce the gap in adaptation funding, enabling smallholder farmers to monetize their reduced vulnerability to climate change and improved resiliency. Through connections to climate-conscious and socially oriented private sector partners, farmers in Guatemala and Honduras will improve production and processing, securing higher market prices, as well as additional income from adaptation credits. This pilot initiative has high potential for replication around the world and across different supply chains.” – Oscar Castañeda, Senior Vice President for the Americas, Heifer International

Heifer International and its partners will develop and pilot the Adaptation Equivalency Index (AEI) which will for the first time aim to quantify the private sector’s return on investment for adaptation activities. The AEI will build on nascent efforts to develop a new asset class that monetizes adaptation benefits such as reduced vulnerability and improved resiliency for men and women living in smallholder farming communities and the environment. The AEI will initially be developed and tested in two countries that are heavily impacted by climate change: Guatemala and Honduras. In Guatemala, the project will focus on the cardamom, allspice, and cocoa value chains. In Honduras, the project will focus on coffee and cocoa. Through making connections to climate-conscious and socially oriented private sector partners that are already part of Heifer International’s programs and by leveraging the organization’s existing investments in the region, smallholder farmers will benefit from improved market prices and enhanced resiliency. The toolkit, lessons learned, and corporate reporting benefits will be highly scalable across geographies and supply chains including textiles, agriculture, and livestock.  

ALLIANCE OF BIOVERSITY INTERNATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR TROPICAL AGRICULTURE (CIAT) – Scaling Financial and Information Services for Smallholder Adaptation
Media contacts: Sean Mattson s.mattson@cgiar.org and Barbara Fang Barbara.Fang@fao.org

“The project led by the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, called ‘Scaling Financial and Information Services for Smallholder Adaptation,’ addresses climate hazards related to rainfall variability – onset, quantity and distribution. East and Southern Africa face potentially billions of dollars of crop losses due to climate change. Urgent action and investment are needed to avoid these losses. This project, which builds on more than a decade of CGIAR climate research, will adopt gamification-based incentives to rapidly scale climate change awareness and familiarize 50,000 smallholder farmers from Uganda and Zambia with climate information services. It will also increase the supply of smallholder-friendly financial products, such as index insurance, normal credits, and risk-contingent credit products. Bundling these services will provide farmers the opportunity to strengthen their resilience to climate challenges. It will also help women farmers, who are often excluded from decision-making in farming, overcome common barriers to scaled adoption of digital innovation.” – Ana María Loboguerrero, Climate Action Research Director, Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT

‘Scaling Financial and Information Services for Smallholder Adaptation’ directly addresses climate hazards related to the precipitation variability – late onset, fluctuating quantity and seasonal distribution predicted with climate change. These changes will cost East and Southern Africa farmers billions of dollars in crop losses without adaptation. Yet farmers rarely have the tools available to manage climate risks. The Alliance of Biodiversity International and CIAT—working with One CGIAR centers, FAO and mass media and financial partners—will scale the demand for, and the supply of, bundled climate, technical, and financial service information. The project will gamify incentives to rapidly increase climate change awareness and familiarize 50,000 Ugandan and Zambian farmers with climate information services driving increased demand for risk management strategies. At the same time, the project will extend smallholder-friendly insurance and credit products such as index insurance, normal credits, and risk-contingent credit to 5,000 farmers in these two countries. Working on both framer demand and private sector supply together will allow farmers, and especially women farmers, to overcome common barriers to scaling adoption of digital solutions to climate risk management and reinforces farmers potential to produce more and increase incomes under climate stress.

WINROCK INTERNATIONAL – Net-Zero Adaptation Finance
Media contact: Chris Hancock chris.hancock@winrock.org

“Winrock International is extremely appreciative of support received from the GEF for our Net-Zero Adaptation Finance (NZAF) program. The NZAF program, similar to other Winrock climate initiatives, leverages market-based mechanisms and partnerships with the private sector to mobilize climate finance flows to where they are needed most. The race to net-zero should not leave adaptation considerations behind and we are thrilled that the GEF recognized NZAF’s objective of ensuring equitable outcomes. We look forward to partnering with the GEF to make the NZAF program a success and create real change.” – Anmol Vanamali, Director of Sustainable Finance, Winrock International

There is an urgent need to mobilize adaptation financing for agriculture and land use sectors, especially in least developed countries, as they are likely to face severe negative impacts of climate change such as shifting agroecosystem boundaries, increased pestilence, and more frequent extreme weather events. However, finance is a significant barrier, with only 5 percent of global climate finance currently flowing to adaptation (i.e. $30 billion out of $600 billion in 2018-19), despite the need for adaptation financing estimated to be as much as $300 billion by 2030.  Simultaneously, these sectors are also likely to see a major influx of mitigation financing as they are targeted for greenhouse gas reductions and removals by private sector companies, especially by food- and agriculture-based companies, looking to meet their net-zero targets.  With valuable support from the GEF, Winrock International proposed the creation of the Net-Zero Adaptation Finance (NZAF) program to ensure that climate finance flowing to these sectors is meeting both adaptation and mitigation objectives. The NZAF program has two innovative components: 1) A resilience screening tool called WinRes to be used in partnership with private sector actors procuring emissions reductions from the agriculture and land use sectors; and 2) A blended finance facility to mobilize concessional financing from financial institutions to project developers who deliver adaptation-oriented GHG reduction and removal projects. Winrock will create partnerships with mission-aligned carbon marketplaces, private sector corporations, financial institutions, impact investors and donors during the design, pilot and scaling-up stages to make the NZAF program a success and create real change.

SUSTAINABLE RICE LANDSCAPES INITIATIVE AND WORLD BUSINESS COUNCIL FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT – Public-Private Blended Finance Facility for Climate Resilient Rice Landscapes
Media contact: Sylvain Maibach maibach@wbcsd.org

“According to the Sustainable Rice Platform, climate impacts are expected to lead to reductions of up to 15 percent in global rice supply by 2050, impacting both food security and the livelihoods of the 1 billion people around the world who are dependent on the crop. The GEF Challenge Program grant will enable the Sustainable Rice Landscapes Initiative to launch a new blended finance facility to catalyse public and private sector investment to scale-up adaptation and resilience-building in rice landscapes.” - Diane Holdorf, Executive Vice President, WBCSD

Rice provides livelihoods for nearly 1 billion people around the world, and feeds over 3.5 billion people as a staple part of their diet.  Yet rice production landscapes and value chains across Asia are increasingly exposed to severe climate risks and hazards, posing a major threat to global food supply and livelihoods.  This project will support the establishment of a new blended finance facility to catalyse public and private sector investment to scale-up adaptation and resilience-building in rice landscapes. This project is led by the Sustainable Rice Landscapes Initiative, a consortium comprised of FAO, GIZ, International Rice Research Institute, the Sustainable Rice Platform, UNEP, and the WBCSD, and will benefit around 1 million people, delivering adaptation benefits over an area estimated at between 2 and 4 million hectares.

WORLD RESOURCES INSTITUTE – Coalition for Climate Resilient Investment
Media contacts: Catherine Beal catherine.beal@wri.org and Andy Collis andrew@acolliscommunications.com

“We are absolutely thrilled with the GEF’s support: this award will build on our pioneering work with Jamaica, helping us work with several vulnerable country governments to advance systemic risk planning and investment, support development of critical resilience metrics, and work with our private sector members to deploy investments that leverage CCRI solutions. We cannot achieve a net-zero world without being resilient first – and are excited to be in this journey with the GEF and our partners.” – Alan Smith, Chair, Systemic Resilience Forum, Coalition for Climate Resilient Investment

The Coalition for Climate Resilient Investment (CCRI) is a private sector led initiative with over 120 members and $20 trillion assets under management, focused on advancing practical tools and solutions to incentivize and reward the inclusion of resilience in investments. CCRI supports investors and governments in better understanding and managing physical climate risks (PCRs), and enables them to better prevent future human and financial disasters by investing in a network of resilient infrastructure in both the most vulnerable and advanced economies. As investors increasingly recognize the impact of PCRs on all asset classes and seek solutions to address such risks proactively, it is becoming clear how acute the mispricing of these risks in investment decision-making is. This constitutes a form of market failure. We are mobilizing the global private financial industry, in partnership with key public institutions, to develop and test practical solutions that integrate PCRs in investment decision-making. These solutions are focused on addressing interrelated challenges at the asset design, financing, and systemic levels. With the GEF’s support, CCRI, the World Resources Institute, and Willis Towers Watson will: 1) tailor systemic risk assessments in partnership with vulnerable countries, including small island developing states, to improve public capacity to assess and manage resilient infrastructure networks; 2) prioritize critically needed investments that maximize the resilience of economies and societies; and 3) develop systemic resilience metrics that communicate macroeconomic value at risk for an infrastructure network’s specific exposure to climate risks in order to better guide both private and public decision-makers. These solutions will be coupled with efforts to advance investment vehicles that reward public and private investors for investing in resilience.