By Leonardo Martinez-Diaz, U.S. Council Member
Since its inception in 1991, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) has been a critical piece of the United States’ environmental agenda, both internationally and domestically. Serving five multilateral environmental agreements, the GEF helps the United States achieve our goals in the areas of biodiversity, wildlife trafficking, mercury remediation, food security, water management, land degradation, and climate change. As the Facility turns 25, we celebrate its impressive achievements and look forward to an even more impactful future.
The GEF’s track record boasts many successes for the global environment. With over 4,000 projects approved since 1991, the GEF has strengthened management of 33 major river basins and one-third of the world’s marine ecosystems. GEF projects have increased food security, protected wildlife habitats, and enriched the livelihoods of millions of people worldwide.
GEF projects have benefited the U.S. economy and environment by addressing external environmental problems that affect our domestic health, safety, and prosperity. For example, the GEF has supported efforts to conserve important fish stocks through habitat protection outside U.S. waters. These efforts contribute to more sustainable global fisheries, which are critically important to the U.S. food supply chain, as the United States imports over 90 percent of its seafood. The GEF has funded dozens of wildlife preserves and law enforcement training programs to protect wildlife habitat and combat the growing problem of wildlife trafficking.
The GEF has shown excellent value for money. The Facility has leveraged $65 billion in funding from other sources since its inception (not including MDB resources). Every dollar the United States contributed to GEF-4 and GEF-5 generated another $5 in co-financing from recipient governments and the private sector.
The GEF is now being asked to do more than ever, including implementing the Minamata Convention on Mercury, ensuring the resilience of its investments to climate change, and building in-country capacity under the new Capacity Building Initiative for Transparency.
Recognizing that many crucial environmental challenges are not confined to particular countries or sectors, the GEF has funded three integrated approaches programs that address cross-sectoral environmental problems, such as tackling environmental degradation caused by global commodity supply chains, inefficient city planning, and food insecurity in Africa. These programs represent the GEF’s first step in promoting a more multi-sectoral approach towards global environmental protection.
As we begin to prepare for the seventh replenishment of the GEF trust fund, we find ourselves at an important juncture, a time to reflect on the GEF’s many accomplishments and to chart a new path forward in the seventh replenishment of the GEF trust fund. We look forward to building a GEF that is even better equipped to tackle the environmental challenges of the future, one that will do so using the best ideas, flexible financial instruments, and scientific innovations to improve the environment. The United States remains committed to the important work of the GEF.