By Íñigo Fernández de Mesa, Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs, Spain
This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Global Environment Facility, which was established in 1992 at the United Nations Earth Summit. At that time when the myriad environmental threats were not yet as well-known or clear-cut, the GEF emerged as a pioneering organization seeking to counteract those threats by focusing its work on such important areas as protecting biodiversity, safeguarding international waters, combating climate change and land degradation, controlling chemical spills, and improving forest protection management.
Spain has worked with the GEF during this period and has been able to provide the organization with its continued support because of the commitment of successive governments and heightened awareness among Spanish citizens of environmental problems. Even in recent years, when budget constraints have grown tighter, Spain has continued to provide the GEF with its unconditional support.
Over such a long period, the world has changed. Demographic pressures and unchecked growth have exacerbated environmental threats. However, the upside is that, because society is now being educated on environmental issues, there is widespread awareness of the need to protect the environment, as evidenced by the consensus reached on the Paris Agreement at the last COP21, which has already been ratified by more than 170 countries.
The GEF has been evolving. In addition to the 4,000 conventional projects in more than 180 countries, new instruments have been created in an effort to achieve new objectives. These include the Integrated Approaches and small grants programmes aimed at civil society, to name a few.
We have also seen the emergence of other complementary instruments such as the Climate Investment Funds and, recently, the Green Climate Fund, which is being hailed as the key tool to combat climate change. All these Funds benefited from GEF experience during the start-up phase of their activities, although once they became operational, activities and experience, both positive and negative, were shared. It should be emphasized that although the GEF is a pioneer, it continues to expand its objectives and seek new tools to fulfill its mission.
I would like to see the GEF successfully continue its work in the years ahead, given the tremendous benefits that it will continue to offer for our future.