Press Release

GEF Wins Harvard University Environment Award

November 12, 2009

12 NOVEMBER 2009 | Cambridge, Massachusetts   – The Global Environment Facility, the world’s largest public environment fund, was recognized with its partners for a path-breaking environmentally-sound transit project in Mexico City today.

Working with the Mexican government, the GEF together with a distinguished group of business, civil society and public institutions received the prestigious Roy Family Award for Environmental Partnership for its work to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions through a sustainable transport bus project called Metrobus.

Harvard “This project in Mexico City is a perfect example of the kind of catalytic impact the GEF has.  With this investment the GEF working with its partners and the Mexican government has delivered global environmental benefits on the local level: close to 80,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year are no longer being pumped into the atmosphere and over 800 polluting minibuses are off the road”, said Monique Barbut, CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility.

Partners developed the 50 kilometer “Bus Rapid System” that runs through the main transport arteries of Mexico City. Under the project, cleaner-burning vehicles were tested on these special corridors using environmentally friendly technologies, including compressed natural gas and hybrid diesel – electric. In addition, the project encouraged greater use of sidewalks and bicycles for non-motorized transport throughout the city. This important investment is part of a comprehensive climate change action plan at the city level, also developed with the support of the GEF.

Other partners include: The World Resources Institute, EMBARQ, the World Resources Institute Center for Sustainable Transport, Center for Sustainable Transport in Mexico, CEIBA. Shell Foundation, Caterpillar Foundation, the World Bank Group, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

“The GEF’s sustainable urban transport portfolio now includes 75 cities all around the world, impacting the daily life of 250 million people. We committed $200 million to this portfolio and leveraged $2.5 billion. Through this portfolio, the GEF has helped globally avoid the emission of nearly 60 million tons CO2, equivalent to the annual emissions of Denmark,” Barbut added.

Transport represents 23% of the world CO2 emissions so it is critical that policy makers make choices that acknowledge this trend. Without corrective action such as moves to cleaner transport systems, climate scientists predict that transport emissions will continue to increase at about 3 percent per year in developing countries, where worsening environmental conditions impact the world’s most vulnerable.

Harvard 2Rapid urbanization may further increase this trend. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned policymakers that they should consider transport a key area of focus if countries are to reduce greenhouse gases emissions.
Projects like the one in Mexico City which focus on massive transport systems, non-motorized transport, better vehicle fuel efficiency as well as efficient land-use planning have shown to be cost-effective and could be reproduced in other countries. Yet to be successful, these kinds of projects have to be prepared and implemented through a strong partnership, at both the national and at the local level.

“Mexico City’s Metrobus is a good model that can be replicated other places and the GEF is ready to support all the countries willing to engage in this kind of innovative and ambitious projects” said Barbut.

Metrobus was selected from a group of 30 projects from around the world. More than 20 experts from and outside Harvard reviewed the nominations. The GEF accepted the award at a Harvard Kennedy School event in Cambridge, Mass. today.
Contacts: Maureen Lorenzetti, Spokesperson, (202) 473 8131, email:; Alexis Mariani, Senior Climate Change Specialist, (202) 473 8718,

About the Global Environment Facility (GEF)

GEF unites 182 countries in partnership with international institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the private sector to address global environmental issues while supporting national sustainable development initiatives. Today the GEF is the largest funder of projects to improve the global environment. An independent financial organization, the GEF provides grants for projects related to biodiversity, climate change, international waters, land degradation, the ozone layer, and persistent organic pollutants. Since 1991, GEF has achieved a strong track record with developing countries and countries with economies in transition, providing $8.6 billion in grants and leveraging $36.1 billion in co-financing for more than 2,400 projects in over 165 countries.