TORONTO (IDN) - The Global Environment Facility (GEF) expects the twenty-first meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – from November 30 to December 11 in Paris – to be a “turning point”.
It expects COP21 to send “a loud and clear signal to citizens, markets and the private sector that the transformation of the global economy is inevitable, beneficial, and already underway”.
Governments from around the world are meeting in Paris to reach a new climate change agreement that aims to keep global average temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) – the level beyond which there will be irreversible impacts.
The GEF refers to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which has made clear that “the longer we delay in tackling climate change, the higher the risks and costs”. In view of this, the next couple of decades would be critical.
The Global Environment Facility was established on the eve of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, to help tackle planet Earth’s most pressing environmental problems. Since then, the GEF has provided over $14 billion in grants and mobilized in excess of $70 billion in additional financing for more than 4,000 projects. The GEF has become an international partnership of 183 countries, international institutions, civil society organizations, and private sector to address global environmental issues.
The GEF believes that halting the growth in global emissions and putting them on a downward path so as to prevent climate disruption is possible. But it necessitates a transformation of the global economy that not only addresses climate change, but also powers new growth.
“We are at a defining moment for the future of our planet and its peoples,” said Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility. “Urgent action is needed to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions, invest in adaptation and build resilience to the growing impacts of our rapidly warming world.”
“Shifting to a low-carbon and resilient trajectory will require coordinated, integrated solutions to catalyze transformation of three key economic systems: energy – how we power our homes, offices and industry, and move goods and people from one place to another; cities – how we live; and food production – how and where we produce food, and what we eat,” Ishii continued.
Ishi said that, based on GEF’s quarter century of experience and a wide network of partners, it is well-placed to support transformation.
The GEF’s commitment to address climate change issues is unequivocal, said Ishi. In 2013-14, it committed a total $1.4 billion for adaptation and mitigation action. By the end of the current funding cycle in June 2018, it is estimated that the GEF will be making about $3 billion available to developing countries to help address climate change, with the potential of $25 billion to be leveraged from other sources.
As a financial mechanism of the UNFCCC, the GEF is supporting developing countries’ shift towards a low-emission development path. Besides its ongoing support to countries in their UNFCCC obligations (such as national communications and biennial update reports), the GEF has also provided financial support to 46 countries as they prepared their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, and stands ready to help make these “investment plans” operational.
In Paris, the GEF will also be actively supporting the 12 action tracks of the so-called Lima Paris Action Agenda to showcase coalitions, partnerships and integrated approaches for action on the ground in areas such as buildings, forests, transport and private finance.
Helping catalyze action
“Rooted in our role as a financing mechanism of the UNFCCC and other key international agreements, the GEF’s resources help catalyze action and direct larger-scale financing flows toward low-carbon and resilient investments,” said Ishii. “We support partnerships at local, national and regional levels around integrated solutions in areas like energy efficiency, renewable energy, sustainable cities, land degradation, deforestation, food security and resilience.”
Governments, the private sector and civil society are taking action on climate change because it is in their interest to do so, GEF said in a press release. Ahead of Paris, almost all countries, as well as states, cities, business and investors, have come forward with the most comprehensive set of pledges and plans ever seen to reduce emissions and bolster resilience, it added.
While Paris is a huge opportunity to demonstrate political ambition and action on climate change, according to GEF, what happens after is as, if not more, important.
The newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals recognize that the health of the global commons is essential for a thriving world,” said Ishii. “A strong climate agreement backed by action on the ground will help us achieve the SDGs. But with the underlying drivers of degradation still at play, our efforts must only intensify.”
The GEF was established in October 1991 as a $1 billion pilot program in the World Bank to assist in the protection of the global environment and to promote environmental sustainable development. The GEF would provide new and additional grants and concessional funding to cover the "incremental" or additional costs associated with transforming a project with national benefits into one with global environmental benefits.
The United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Environment Program, and the World Bank were the three initial partners implementing GEF projects.
In 1994, the GEF was restructured and moved out of the World Bank system to become a permanent, separate institution. The decision to make the GEF an independent organization enhanced the involvement of developing countries in the decision-making process and in implementation of the projects. Since 1994, however, the World Bank has served as the Trustee of the GEF Trust Fund and provided administrative services.
As part of the restructuring, the GEF was entrusted to become the financial mechanism for both the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. In partnership with the Montreal Protocol of the Vienna Convention on Ozone Layer Depleting Substances, the GEF started funding projects that enable the Russian Federation and nations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia to phase out their use of ozone-destroying chemicals.
The GEF subsequently was also selected to serve as financial mechanism for three more international conventions: The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the Minamata Convention on Mercury. [IDN-InDepthNews – 26 November 2015]
Image: The GEF