Member governments and partners of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) met today – Earth Day – to formally start discussions about its eighth replenishment cycle, signaling ambitious plans and priorities at a critical time for the health of people and planet.
The meetings brought together representatives of donor and recipient countries, civil society, and observers from the wider GEF community, including partner agencies, environmental conventions, the private sector, and international climate funds, for substantive conversations about how the GEF can scale up action on inter-related threats including climate change, biodiversity loss, chemical pollution, and pressure on forests, oceans, and landscapes.
The GEF-8 investment period, which will span from July 2022 to June 2026, aligns with a crucial time for the world to recover sustainably from the COVID-19 pandemic, tackle the root causes of challenges to nature and human health, and make large strides toward the 2030 international environmental goals.
“We have high ambitions for the coming decade and plans to achieve them,” GEF CEO and Chairperson Carlos Manuel Rodriguez told the session, held virtually because of the ongoing global pandemic.
Rodriguez, a former Costa Rican environment and energy minister, noted and welcomed the growing political aspirations of governments – including the developing countries eligible for GEF grant funding and blended finance – to turn the tide on environmental degradation and invest in nature’s renewal, in support of a COVID-19 recovery that is green, blue, clean, and resilient.
Nigerian Environment Minister Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar said the pandemic has had profound impacts on food security and livelihoods across Africa, straining already-fragile relations between people and the natural environment. “Africa must use this opportunity to rethink how the environment can be better integrated into our development aspirations and processes,” he said.
Abubakar described the GEF as a trusted partner over the past 30 years, bringing knowledge, networks, and experience to the table. “The Africa region benefits greatly from the GEF’s ability to bring together government, civil society, and private sector agents of change in supporting innovative solutions that can be scaled up. However, the GEF’s current funding is not enough when compared to the challenge before us,” he said. “A successful scaled up GEF-8 will be critical to the achievement of these global environmental ambitions and delivering on SDGs as well as the needs of countries like Nigeria.”
Zac Goldsmith, the United Kingdom’s Minister for Pacific and the Environment, called on governments to increase their international climate financing and spend more of it on nature, with particular support for developing countries and small island states, saying: “There is nothing more important than turning this trajectory around.
“Just as degrading the natural world has numerous grave implications, protecting and restoring nature helps to tackle countless problems – hunger, poverty, biodiversity loss, and of course climate change. It is not possible to properly address these issues without a focus on nature,” Goldsmith said. “We believe that if we work together – governments, businesses, multilateral organizations, NGOs, civil society, developing countries, developed countries – we can make this the year things really begin to change. And as the only financing mechanism spanning environmental agreements, the GEF has such an important role to play.”
The replenishment meetings, to span April 22-23, include presentations on GEF-8 strategic programming directions and policy, and a report by the GEF Independent Evaluation Office on recent evaluation findings. They are co-hosted with the World Bank, which is one of three founding partners of the GEF, one of the GEF’s 18 partner agencies as well as its trustee, with responsibility for the mobilization of resources for the trust fund. World Bank Vice President of Development Finance Akihiko Nishio welcomed the substantive input from all participants regarding the GEF’s future.
“This first meeting is very important to set the tone and strategic direction for GEF-8 replenishment,” Nishio said in his opening remarks seeking the participants’ valuable inputs and guidance in shaping strategic positioning, programming directions, and policy agenda for GEF-8. Nishio also thanked the ministers from Nigeria and the United Kingdom for their inspiring message on the compelling case for collective global action and response to address the greatest environmental threats and challenges faced by the planet.
Member governments and representatives of the GEF’s community of partners will meet again for further discussions about the trust fund’s replenishment over the coming months, with the next formal meeting planned for end of September. A final decision about the size and ambition of the GEF-8 funding envelope is expected to be taken in 2022.