Meeting in Brazil, the Global Environment Facility’s governing body approved the disbursement of $1.4 billion to accelerate efforts to tackle the climate, biodiversity, and pollution crises.
The GEF Council support for the record work program targeting the root causes of environmental damage came amid significant momentum for environmental diplomacy, following recent breakthrough deals on biodiversity, and the high seas, and progress on plastics and other issues.
The funding package includes support for 136 countries and has a significant focus on action to address species and habitat loss, in line with the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework agreed in December. It spans 94 percent of all countries eligible for GEF support, which include developing countries, countries with economies in transition, Least Developed Countries, and Small Island Developing States.
“This large and broad infusion of support will enable developing countries including Brazil to respond more strategically to environmental concerns that affect us all,” said Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, Costa Rica’s former environment and energy minister who became GEF CEO and Chairperson in 2020. “We are very pleased to provide funding on this scale as we look to launch and host the new Global Biodiversity Framework Fund.”
The GEF funding is set to generate another $9.1 billion in co-financing from other sources, for total support of $10.5 billion.
GEF Council members, who represent constituent groups of the multilateral fund’s 185 member countries, expressed strong support for efforts to address environmental threats in a holistic manner, such as through the Amazon, Congo, and Critical Forest Biomes Integrated Program which spans across 25 countries.
Marina Silva, Brazil’s Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, welcomed the GEF Council to Brasilia and noted the need for increased ongoing cooperation between countries to address global challenges, including those that Brazil is working to confront.
“This meeting represents a huge opportunity for us to create bridges and channels for dialogue,” she told the opening session, calling for efforts to build support for a future that is economically prosperous, socially just, and environmentally sustainable. “There is no dilemma between protecting the environment and fighting poverty: the effects of climate change hit the most vulnerable populations hardest,” she said.
Delegates had an opportunity to visit the GEF-funded Amazon Region Protected Areas (ARPA) program, which has been supporting efforts to manage and improve protected areas in the Brazil’s Amazon region since 2002, before they considered the work program in the capital, which included expanded support for the Amazon Sustainable Landscapes (ASL) program and related initiatives.
The new funding for the Amazon will further strengthen conservation governance and improve regional collaboration across seven Amazon basin countries – Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela – on protection of primary forests and other targeted areas, building on past efforts supported by the GEF. The goal is to maintain and restore the ecological integrity of the Amazon basin, which comprises 650 million hectares of forest and 100 million hectares of freshwater ecosystems.
Overall, the work program approved in Brasilia includes nearly $90 million in support for Brazil, including regional and global initiatives that relate to the highly biodiverse country. This included support for mapping the biodiversity located in Indigenous territories.
“It is a historical moment to witness the GEF approve in Brasilia a project to strengthen the capacity of Indigenous Peoples and local communities in the Amazon and Cerrado to manage biodiversity data as a strategy to protect our territories, safeguard ancestral knowledge, and promote integrated biodiversity management,” said Brazilian Minister of Indigenous Peoples Sonia Guajajara.
Other Integrated Programs receiving funding from the Brasilia meeting include those on Blue and Green Islands, Circular Solutions to Plastic Pollution, Ecosystem Restoration, Eliminating Hazardous Chemicals from Supply Chains, and a Net-Zero Nature-Positive Accelerator.
The work program benefits 43 Least Developed Countries and 37 Small Island Developing States through several Integrated Programs and projects. One example will support the efforts of six countries in Africa – Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Angola, and Sao Tome and Principe – to tackle forest loss and degradation.
Another initiative supported in the work program is an effort to improve international cooperation in the Eastern Tropical Pacific marine corridor, which connects the waters of Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Panama, countries which have already protected more than 30 percent of their marine territories. The $14 million in GEF support is set to mobilize another $53 million from other sources for the Conservation International-managed project, which aims to support biodiversity and conservation in at least 31 million hectares through improved regional ocean governance.
This was the second work program of the GEF-8 funding period, which runs from 2022 and 2026. During GEF-8, a total of $5.3 billion in donor funding will be deployed. Much of the support is set to be delivered through six of eleven new Integrated Programs, designed to target environmental degradation across many sectors for maximum impact.
The work program approved in Brasilia included four blended finance projects, where the GEF is deploying non-grant resources such as loans, guarantees, and concessional finance to reduce the risk profile of priority projects in order to attract private investment. The $47 million in GEF funding for those projects is expected to generate $1.8 billion from other sources – a 39:1 co-financing ratio.
The blended finance projects, whose selection followed a call for proposals, include initiatives related to clean energy technology in Chile and India, and sustainable food systems in Asia and the Pacific and Latin America and the Caribbean.
The new GEF investments will enable countries to advance all of the goals and most of the 23 targets of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, which was agreed to at the Convention on Biological Diversity COP15 in December. Countries agreed at that Montreal meeting to house a new fund supporting the framework at the GEF.
The GEF was created on the eve of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro as a financial mechanism to enable developing countries to take action on urgent environmental challenges. Since then, it has grown in scope and mandate to include new threats and priorities, many of which are clearly reflected in Brazil, which in addition to focusing on the Amazon has worked with the GEF to support sustainable urban growth and other issues.
The Brasilia meeting is a stepping-stone to the once-every-four-years GEF Assembly, which will take place in Vancouver in August.