The Global Environment Facility (GEF) has agreed on $700 Million USD for projects and programmes to help developing countries keep advancing urgent environmental priorities through and beyond the coronavirus pandemic. The new and expanded programming, announced 3 June by the Facility’s governing body, will help developing countries protect marine biodiversity, fight wildlife trafficking, tackle dangerous uses of mercury, and fortify defenses against climate change in the agriculture and fisheries sectors, in basic services such as drinking water, and other areas.
The programme, which spans 72 countries, is expected to mobilize $3 billion in co-financing from other sources and directly benefit 12 million local people in project areas. It includes the expansion of three existing programs – the Global Wildlife Program, the Food Systems, Land Use and Restoration (FOLUR) Impact Program, and the Global E-Mobility Program – to new countries, extends funding support to the GEF Small Grants Programme, and launches two new programs: Common Oceans and GOLD+.
The Common Oceans program, led by FAO and co-implemented by UNDP and UNEP, aims to improve the sustainable management of 12 million hectares of marine protected areas beyond national jurisdiction, and support moving 943,000 tons of several globally over-exploited fish species to sustainable levels. This program will address the sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, which are subject to multiple threats including over-fishing, pollution, habitat loss, degradation, and climate change impacts.
Another new program, GEF GOLD+, will support the elimination of mercury from the artisanal and small-scale gold mining sectors in developing countries through formalisation, access to finance and markets, and access to mercury-free gold mining technologies. This program extends the planetGOLD program that was approved in the GEF-6 replenishment cycle and will be managed by Conservation International with the support of UNEP, UNDP and UNIDO.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UNFAO) welcomed an allocation of $176 Million USD to 24 of its projects that tackle the critical intersection between agriculture and environmental concerns. The projects address global environmental crises that impact the productivity and sustainability of agricultural systems on land and water across five continents. Four projects in Nicaragua, Guinea, Kenya and Uzbekistan will contribute to the GEF's Food Systems, Land Use and Restoration Impact Programme.
Led by the World Bank, this prorogramme aims to protect ecosystem services by embedding production systems within wider landscapes. One project in Tanzania will complement the GEF Drylands Sustainable Landscape Impact Program, established in 2019 to address degradation of land and dryland ecosystems and led by UNFAO.
Further projects focus on safeguarding international and transboundary waters. One will help Brazil and Uruguay jointly manage the large Merin Lagoon, a vast freshwater lake that sustains millions of migratory birds. Another will help Cambodia and Vietnam monitor and jointly manage groundwater in the Mekong Delta region.
GEF was established on the eve of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit to help tackle our planet’s most pressing environmental problems. Since then, the Facility has provided close to $20.5 Billion USD in grants and mobilized an additional $112 Billion USD in co-financing for more than 4,800 projects in 170 countries. Through its Small Grants Programme, GEF has provided support to nearly 24,000 civil society and community initiatives in 133 countries.