The Global Environment Facility engages with a wide range of partners to help developing countries deal with the accelerating climate crisis. Its Challenge Program for Adaptation Innovation catalyzes innovation and harnesses the power of private sector actors to enhance the impact of climate change adaptation. This initiative is testing and validating scalable and bankable investment models and technologies.  

A unique element of the Challenge Program is that it enables the GEF to engage directly with climate adaptation innovators using calls for proposals. A total of 19 projects have been approved through two initial rounds. This model of linking directly with the ideas of innovation leaders is being increasingly adopted by other GEF programs to engage a broader spectrum of actors in presenting and developing GEF-financed initiatives.  

How the Program Drives Adaptation Innovation

The creation of new partnerships with leaders on the cutting edge of climate adaptation innovation, particularly in the private sector, has demonstrated how the Challenge Program is meeting unmet needs in developing countries to tackle climate shocks. This includes generating new sources of blended finance with the private sector, which are complemented with other sources of climate adaptation finance. 

The Challenge Program is designed to help address the limited financing available for climate change adaptation. The large gap between the type of transformational action developing countries need to take now to adapt to climate change, and the scarcity of financing currently available, emphasizes the importance of innovative approaches. Several private sector actors and other innovators involved in the Challenge Program are engaging directly with the GEF for the first time.  

The GEF has provided a combined $20 million in project funding through the two initial calls for proposals. This comes from a total of $100 million funds available for the duration of the program, based on the GEF’s four-year climate change adaptation strategy leading to 2026. After their selection, winning projects are developed and implemented in partnership with one of the 18 GEF agencies.  

Program Winners

The first round of winning projects was announced during the climate change COP25 held in Madrid, Spain in 2019. You can learn more about the nine winning projects and the organizations that developed them in the COP25 press release here. The 10 winning projects in the second round were announced during COP26 in Glasgow, United Kingdom in 2021. Find out more here

Partners and Financing

The non-traditional GEF partners engaged through this program include global financial institutions such as BNP Paribas; fintech investors such as BFA Global; large-scale agriculture commodity managers such as Nespresso; investment fund managers such as South Pole Group; insurance industry leaders such as Willis Towers Watson,  the city administrations of Chokwe in Mozambique and Kaysone Phomvihane in Lao PDR; technology innovators such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in addition to micro-, small- and medium enterprises , and several civil society organizations.  

Financing for the Challenge Program for Adaptation Innovation comes from the GEF’s two specialist climate adaptation funds – the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) and the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF). The LDCF is the only multilateral climate fund designed to address the particular climate adaptation needs of Least Developed Countries; while the SCCF is focused on targeting the adaptation priorities of Small Island Developing States as well as catalyzing innovation, technology transfer, and private sector engagement.