Press Release

GEF for Sustainable Cities – New Global Program Launched to Develop and Manage Cities Sustainably

June 3, 2015

More than half of Mexico’s population resides in medium-sized cities such as Xalapa.

11 countries, 23 pilot cities and an investment of USD 150 million in GEF grants plus USD 1.5 billion in additional financing from other sources: The Global Environment Facility (GEF) today approved a new global program to address the challenge of a rapidly urbanizing world and the subsequent pressure on cities.

“Working with cities allows us to attack the drivers of environmental degradation in an integrated way: This program will demonstrate how innovation and high impact investments can contribute to a sustainable management of cities”, said Naoko Ishii, GEF CEO and Chairperson.

This ambitious five-year endeavor is a partnership of the GEF, governments at all levels together with a number of UN agencies, the World Bank and regional development banks. The goal is to promote an approach to urban sustainability that is guided by evidence based, multi-dimensional, and broadly inclusive planning processes that balance economic, social, and environmental resource considerations.

In Mexico, the project will support three medium sized cities (Campeche, La Paz, and Xalapa) that have already developed sustainability action plans based on an analysis data from 117 different indicators and further analytics carried out as part of the Emerging and Sustainable Cities Initiative (ESCI) by the Interamerican Development Bank IADB. In addition to a USD 15 million grant from the GEF this project in Mexico is expected to generate substantial additional financing from other partners.

“This initiative represents a positive step for the GEF since it allows for a more integrated Approach for interventions that goes beyond what traditional multilateral environmental agencies have been doing. It is backed up by a strong analysis of the situation of cities and I am confident that it will contribute to a better life for people living in these cities,” said Carlos Delgado, GEF Council member representing Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and Venezuela.

For Campeche, the main priority is modernizing the city's water and wastewater systems in order to reduce contamination of the Campeche Bay area and increase the quality of the waters, thereby promoting the re-population of the ocean and improving the overall attractiveness of the city. In La Paz, where four aging fuel oil power plants produce a significant amount of pollution, fuel-switching to solar power has been identified as a priority, in addition to securing long term access to potable water. Finally in Xalapa, where transport is responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions, the main priority is to promote more efficient and environmentally-friendly motorized and non-motorized mobility. In each case, the new program will help promote further increase the scope and depth of sustainability planning, while also promoting investments to implement plans, in addition to sharing lessons with other cities around the country. The project is estimated to avoid 4 million tons of CO2 in 20 years.

Since over half of Mexico’s population resides in medium-sized cities like the three targeted by the GEF program, it is expected that the lessons drawn from planning and investment activities supported by the program will have good potential for replication across the country as a whole.

In Latin America the program includes also Paraguay and Peru with one pilot city each and Brazil with two pilot cities. And at a global level the projects are being tied together on a global coordination and knowledge sharing platform to guarantee the biggest synergistic effect possible.


This program is one of three new Integrated Approach Pilot programs just approved this week by the GEF council in Washington DC.

The GEF serves as financial mechanism for several multilateral environmental agreements — including biodiversity, climate change, desertification, ozone depletion and mercury, among others- each having set ambitious targets to address multiple facets of global environmental degradation. Strong calls are being made to promote complementarity in addressing problems that are cross-cutting in nature, seeking to deliver more effective and scaled-up investment packages that benefit developing countries. The GEF is uniquely positioned among multilateral financial mechanisms for its ability to integrate funding lines and reinforce the multiple objectives required to promote transformational change. Recognizing the need to increase the impact of its investments given the environmental issues facing the planet, the GEF has refreshed its global strategy to guide funding over the next four years. The strategy now puts a strong focus on tackling the drivers of environmental degradation, which is critical to slow and eventually reverse environmental trends.

A select number of integrated investments will seek to produce multiple environmental benefits by working with a broad range of organizations and sectors, including government agencies, businesses and NGOs. This new and more integrated approach is being added to existing GEF funding modalities to strengthen its capacity to respond to priorities identified by multiple conventions and stakeholders. The GEF-6 integrated approaches include pilot investments in programs addressing:

These will test delivery of a more integrated approach to address time-bound global environment challenges whose resolution are closely aligned with targets and goals of the multilateral environmental agreements which the GEF serves as a financial mechanism.