In his opening address to the 59th meeting of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Council, GEF CEO and Chairperson Carlos Manuel Rodríguez called for the Council to place green recovery strategies to respond to COVID-19 at the heart of the GEF’s new Work Program. He also encouraged the Council to set robust targets for the eighth replenishment of the GEF Trust Fund (GEF-8), and to support the effectiveness of national-level programmes, including by sharing best practices.
Rodríguez further challenged the Council, noting that recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic provides a chance to address overlapping crises triggered by human-caused biodiversity loss and environmental degradation, and highlighting that the GEF plays a role in helping countries to break down institutional and national silos and develop integrated and innovative policy tools to leverage resources for environmental protection, including from the private sector.
By the conclusion of the Council meeting, which convened virtually from 7-11 December 2020, and brought together 184 representatives of governments, international organizations, and civil society organizations, Council Members approved a Work Program comprising 62 projects and programs, with total resources amounting to USD 409.2 million. The Work Program is designed to take into account COVID-19, and offers urgent assistance to 87 of the world’s most vulnerable countries. The Work Program also mobilizes USD 2.1 billion in co-financing, of which USD 1.4 billion is from investments. Among the approved projects are the following:
- Combating Land Degradation through Integrated and Sustainable Range and Livestock Management to Promote Resilient Livelihoods in Northern Punjab;
- Phasing Out Mercury Measuring Devices in Healthcare;
- Promotion of Circular Economy in the Textile and Garment Sector through the Sustainable Management of Chemicals and Waste in Ethiopia;
- POPs and Mercury-free Solutions for Environmentally Sound Waste Management in Paraguay;
- Build a Blue and Stronger Mediterranean, through the Mediterranean Network of Effective and Sustainable MPAs; and
- Enhancing Water-Food Security and Climate Resilience in Volcanic Island Countries of the Pacific.
The Earth Negotiations Bulletin summary of the Council meeting notes that Council Members deliberated on the pandemic’s impact on project management, and considered a white paper by the GEF COVID-19 Task Force that outlines how environmental action can reduce future threats of disease outbreak. Additional issues discussed included:
- The endorsement of a new private sector engagement strategy, outlining how the GEF will work in a systematic manner with industry groups, companies, and investors to reverse unsustainable global trends and deliver global environmental benefits;
- The opening of discussions on the GEF-8 replenishment, the negotiations for which are expected to conclude by April 2022 in order to ensure a smooth transition from GEF-7; and
- Governance of the GEF, including an agreement to pilot a co-chairing arrangement by which the elected co-chairperson would be selected from among the GEF’s Members for the duration of one year instead of just one meeting, to facilitate a stronger involvement of the elected chairperson in providing input to the agenda, the chairing of the meeting, and the meeting report.
During the 29th meeting of the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) and Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) Council, Council Members approved a USD 64 million LDCF Work Program, comprising nine projects, including three multi-trust fund projects that combine resources with the GEF. During a pledging session for the LCDF, Finland pledged EUR 5 million, Switzerland pledged an additional CHF 700,000, and Qatar pledged USD 500,000. [Summary of the Chair of the GEF Council][Summary of the Chair of the LDCF/SCCF Council][ENB coverage of the meeting]