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GEF Council approves ambitious work program for green cities, nature, and climate change

December 20, 2019

GEF CEO and Chairperson Naoko Ishii addresses the 57th Council
Photo: IISD/ENB, Francis Dejon

Government representatives have approved more than $600 million for two new work programs that include innovative ventures to expand marine protected areas and engage indigenous peoples for biodiversity protection, and for climate change resilience-building efforts in least developed countries.

Representatives of the Global Environment Facility’s 183 country members, meeting in Washington DC, approved the set of five programs and 48 projects, including four multi-trust fund projects, to be implemented in 87 developing and least developed countries. The $588.5 million in GEF Trust Fund financing approved by the GEF Council is expected to mobilize $5.6 billion in co-financing from other sources.

Additionally, the joint Council of the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) and Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) approved a $64.8 million work program for climate change adaptation in the world’s poorest countries, comprising of nine projects, four of which are also supported by the GEF Trust Fund. The government of Belgium also announced a 15 million euro pledge to the LDCF during that meeting.

Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson of the GEF, said she was heartened to see support for action on urgent environmental priorities ahead of a pivotal year for international negotiations on biodiversity and climate change, and amid increasing recognition by citizens and governments alike that nature is a foundation to sustainable development.

“I have witnessed a huge and increasing surge of interest, recognition and determination of how we can make the best use of this Super Year 2020,” she said, stressing the need for transformative change to the global economy in light of multiple pressures from climate change, biodiversity loss, and pressures from the global food system. “We need to present how this transition will be navigated by working together. Our food, land use and restoration program, sustainable cities program, and forest management program are examples of how the transition may work. The GEF’s role is to present this pathway for a very challenging transition and show how we can work together.”

The work program approved by the 57th GEF Council spans support for action on climate change, biodiversity, land degradation, chemicals and waste, and international waters, primarily with grant support, and was complemented by $35 million in non-grant instruments. Among the programs and projects included are:

  • The Blue Nature Alliance, a new program designed to support new and expanded marine protections and improved management of existing marine protected areas to safeguard the future health of the global ocean. The GEF is a founding partner, working with Conservation International, The Pew Charitable Trusts, and the Walton Family Foundation. “Through this partnership we are trying to trigger what would have been impossible for any one of us to do alone,” said Gustavo Fonseca, GEF Director of Programs. “We expect the Blue Nature Alliance to be catalytic for more action in this space.”
  • The Inclusive Conservation Initiative, launched with Conservation International and IUCN, is a global project designed to directly support indigenous peoples’ stewardship of the lands, waters, and natural resources they control, to address the growing drivers of global environmental degradation. This innovative program will empower indigenous peoples to increase large-scale biodiversity conservation and natural resource management activities, in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goal 15 on biodiversity and critical ecosystems worldwide.
  • The Sustainable Cities Impact Program, which builds on prior GEF work in support of green and sustainable cities, including through the World Bank-led Global Platform for Sustainable Cities. The new Impact Program, led by the UN Environment Programme, will focus on supporting integrated urban planning, sustainable investments, and innovative financing and business models for private sector engagement at the city level. It includes $160 million of GEF support, leveraged by an expected $1.7 billion in co-financing, for activities in 24 cities across nine countries – Argentina, Brazil, China, Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, Morocco, Sierra Leone, and Rwanda.
  • The Africa Mini-Grids Program that will help 11 African countries – Angola, Burkina Faso, Comoros, Djibouti, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Malawi, Nigeria, Somalia, and Sudan – increase clean energy access.
  • The Global Cleantech Innovation Program, designed to support clean technology entrepreneurship in developing countries including Cambodia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Turkey, Ukraine, and Uruguay, in support of lower carbon emissions.
  • An expansion of the Food, Land Use and Restoration Impact Program to five more countries – Brazil, Paraguay, Nigeria, Uganda, and India.
  • An expansion of the Implementing Sustainable Low and Non-Chemical Development in SIDS (ISLANDS) Program to make three additional countries – Bahamas, Cuba, and Dominica – eligible for support, to address chemicals and marine plastics.

The Council took a number of decisions concerned with updating GEF policies and operations, including minimum fiduciary standards, and agency compliance with environmental and social safeguards. The GEF private sector engagement strategy was also discussed, with the Council inviting the GEF Private Sector Advisory Group to continue until the end of the GEF-7 replenishment cycle.

In the 27th LDCF/SCCF Council meeting, the Belgian Ambassador to the United States Dirk Wouters said his government had made the 15 million euro pledge to support the immediate needs of the least developed countries, and he emphasized the European Union’s commitment to support climate action.

The governments of Canada, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden also reconfirmed the pledges they announced for the LDCF in September.

Council Member Gillian Guthrie of Jamaica, who co-chaired the 57th GEF Council meeting, underlined the importance of Global Environment Facility assistance to environmental and climate efforts across developing countries. “The GEF remains a very important global mechanism for development, especially in our recipient countries,” she said.

Ali’ioaiga Feturi Elisaia of Samoa, who represented the constituency including Cook Islands, Fiji, Indonesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu at the GEF Council, also stressed the value of the GEF partnership and commitment to shared action, particularly in the face of global warming. “The sum of all our contributions is what allows us to address the impact of climate change,” he told the final session.

The video below features Council participants looking towards 2020 and beyond for action on climate change, oceans, and biodiversity.


Please see the Joint Summaries of the Chairs from both the 57th GEF Council and the 27th LDCF/SCCF Council meetings for more details on the various decisions.

On the sidelines of this week's meetings, Council participants and invitees engaged in conversation with a global online audience and shared ideas and solutions to some of our planet’s most urgent environmental problems on GEF Live - a partnership between the GEF and Connect4Climate. Watch all the videos from the Council event page.