global environmental facility (GEF) is an independent financial organization that provides grants to developing countries for projects that benefit the global environment and promote sustainable livelihoods in local communities (mainly in six environmental areas: biodiversity, climate change, international waters, land degradation, the ozone layer, and persistent organic pollutants). After the Rio Convention, GEF was established to finance sustainable development in developing countries with funds from developed nations.
GEF has 177 members (also known as the GEF Assembly), which includes developed and developing countries, as well as those countries with economies in transition. Each country has a GEF representative known as a Focal Point, a designated government official who coordinates matters related to GEF governance to ensure that projects meet a country's priorities. The GEF Assembly meets once every four years to review the policies and operations of GEF. The GEF chief executive officer and chairperson leads the GEF Secretariat, which coordinates the implementation all GEF projects and programs.
The GEF Council, representing 32 constituencies (14 from developed countries, 16 from developing countries, and two from countries with transitional economies), functions as an independent board of directors, with primary responsibility for developing, adopting, and evaluating GEF programs. The council meets twice each year for three days and also conducts business by mail. All decisions are by consensus and its open-door policy towards nongovernmental organizations and representatives of civil society makes GEF unique among international financial institutions.
The GEF Assembly, Council, and Secretariat approve of projects and policies, but the GEF does not implement projects. The United Nations Development Program, the UN Environmental Program, and the World Bank are some of the major agencies that are responsible for implementing and managing GEF programs. Other international organizations like the African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruc tion and Development, UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Inter-American Development Bank, International Fund for Agricultural Development, and UN Industrial Development Organization have been added to the list of organizations executing GEF projects.
GEF supports a number of programs. Renewable energy is one of the most promising substitutes for fossil fuels, which are responsible for the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions. GEF helps countries remove barriers to developing markets for renewable energies wherever cost-effective. GEF funds projects which promote the use of renewable energy, such as small hydropower generating plants, and the development of cost-effective solar voltaic cells. Such opportunities can be found in on-grid and off-grid situations, as well as in heating for industrial and other applications using renewable energy sources.
Using less energy saves money, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. GEF supports market transformation of energy-efficiency appliances and widespread adoption of energy-efficient technologies in industry and building sectors.The transportation sector is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. GEF supports projects that promote a long-term shift towards low emission and sustainable forms of transportation. Eligible activities include things such as: public rapid transit, which encompasses bus rapid transit, light rail transit, and trolley electric buses; transport- and traffic-demand management; non-motorized transport, and better land-use planning.
The Climate Convention guidance to the GEF on adaptation has evolved through a series of staged approaches. Originally, the GEF supported initial studies, vulnerability and adaptation assessments, and capacity building. More recently, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change has negotiated with the GEF to support pilot and demonstration projects in the field of adaptation. Under its strategic priority Piloting an Operational Approach to Adaptation, the GEF supports projects that provide real benefits and may be integrated into national policies and sustainable development planning. In addition, the GEF supports adaptation activities through the Least Developed Country Fund and the Special Climate Change Fund.
Global Industrial and Social Progress Research Institute (GISPRI) 453
In addition to renewable energies and energy efficiency, new technologies are critical to help prevent dangerous levels of greenhouse gas emissions, while allowing for economic development. GEF provides support for such new technologies that are not yet cost effective. The current portfolio ranges from large-scale solar power plants, to distributed power generation in fuel cells, to building-integrated solar photovoltaics.
Donor countries, usually developed countries such as the United States and Japan, contribute funds to GEF. Since 1991, GEF has provided $6.8 billion and generated over $24 billion in co-financing from other sources to support over 1,900 projects that produced global environmental benefits to more than 160 developing countries and countries with economies in transition. In 2006, 32 donor countries pledged $3.13 billion to fund operations for four years.
SEE ALSo: Alternative Energy, Solar; Energy, Renewable; Framework Convention on Climate Change; Greenhouse Gases.
BIBLIogRAPHY. Nazli Choucri, et al., MappingSustainabil-ity: Knowledge e-Networkingand the Value Chain (Springer, 2007); M.Z. Jacobson, Addressing Global Warming, Air Pollution Health Damage, and Long-term Energy Needs Simultaneously (Stanford University, 2006).
Velma I. Grover Natural Resource Consultant
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Do we really want the one thing that gives us its resources unconditionally to suffer even more than it is suffering now? Nature, is a part of our being from the earliest human days. We respect Nature and it gives us its bounty, but in the recent past greedy money hungry corporations have made us all so destructive, so wasteful.