This week, the GEF Secretariat piloted an interactive dialogue on facilitating synergies in implementing the Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) that the GEF serves as financial mechanism. These MEAs include the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the Stockholm Convention and the Minamata Convention on Mercury.
The GEF on a regular basis holds Expanded Constituency Workshops (ECWs) that provide an opportunity for GEF political and operational focal points, national Convention focal points and other key partners, to discuss and plan GEF programming and strategy at the national and regional level.
At the workshop for the South Asia region, held in Bangkok this week, the GEF piloted a half-day session on ‘Facilitating synergies in implementing MEAs towards sustainable development’, adding a new perspective to the program. It was the first time to engage all Convention Secretariats in an ECW, discuss major global agreements and GEF implications, and potential synergy opportunities in programming GEF resources at the country level in the context of sustainable development.
A total of 140 operational, political and Convention focal points from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam attended the workshop.
The session’s aims were to enhance synergies among MEAs and promote GEF program integration, understand milestone global agreements and recent decisions, as well as needs, barriers and priorities to integrated programming.
Key questions that participants discussed included: What opportunities are there for countries to use synergies between MEAs on the ground? How can countries address multiple MEAs and their national sustainable development priorities simultaneously? The dialogue aimed to explore where countries’ needs and opportunities for synergistic solutions are and how GEF support could help countries realize them.
The GEF occupies a unique space in the global financing architecture by delivering global environmental benefits across the MEAs. The latest MEA is the Paris Agreement, the result of a historic moment in December 2015 in which 195 countries for the first time agreed on a universal climate deal. The GEF will serve the Paris Agreement and provide financing to developing countries to reach the new agreement’s ambitious goals, including through its main trust fund, and through the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) and Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF). Other MEAs, however, have also reached major negotiation milestones, with key agreements and decisions that guide countries towards agreed goals.
Many global environmental challenges are interlinked and share common drivers. Biodiversity loss, climate change, ecosystem degradation, and pollution often share common drivers and may demand coordinated responses. For example, unsustainable agricultural production contributes approximately one-quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. But it is also a leading cause of hypoxia in aquatic systems, and it can lead to deforestation and habitat destruction, thus promoting further loss of biodiversity. By targeting key drivers, the GEF can magnify the effects of its investments, making them add up to more than the sum of their parts.
Interdependence between environmental challenges is an additional reason for considering integrated approaches. For example, ecosystem degradation may happen faster as a result of vulnerabilities created by climate change. Research suggests that combined effects markedly increase the probability that critical thresholds of irreversible change will be crossed faster than predicted for each factor separately.
With the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, as embodied in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), countries are also increasingly interested in pursuing integrated, cross-cutting opportunities for sustainable development. The synergies dialogue represented a first attempt in putting these thoughts to work and engage with countries on the way towards implementation.