On the third day of the 61st meeting of the GEF Council, Rosina Bierbaum, Chair of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP), briefed Council Members on the STAP’s research results and upcoming areas of focus. The Executive Secretaries of four conventions for which the GEF serves as a financial mechanism updated Council Members on planning for in-person meetings of their Conferences of the Parties, and noted challenges that postponements of these meetings have meant for providing timely guidance to the GEF-8 negotiations. The Council was also briefed on the outcome of the Glasgow Climate Change Conference (COP 26).
Report of the Chairperson of the STAP
Rosina Bierbaum discussed the STAP’s paper on the South-South Knowledge Exchange, and highlighted related recommendations for GEF-8 programming: to organize knowledge in a coherent manner; to develop a database of best practices from the Small Grants Programme (SGP); and to empower GEF operational focal points with the skills and understanding to define knowledge exchange needs and report results. She also presented STAP reports on “Enabling Elements of Good Project Design” and “How to Design Circular Economy Projects.”
Bierbaum described the STAP’s ongoing work on the sustainable blue economy, and noted that early consultations with Agencies and other experts confirm that GEF blue economy investments should be integrated, durable, and transformative.
On adaptation, Bierbaum described work on: a decision tree user guide, which aims to ensure adaptation projects deliver effective and durable outcomes; and an adaptation services framework, which will analyze GEF-supported adaptation services and aims to complement non-GEF adaptation investments.
Bierbaum identified highlights from the GEF Work Program, identifying three projects as good examples:
- a Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) project on strategies and social solutions to manage bycatch in tropical large marine ecosystems, noting it incorporates a good theory of change and consideration of drivers, and focuses on long-term viability of the fisheries sector;
- a UN Environment Programme/Asian Development Bank project on financing agrochemical reduction and management, saying it addresses the nexus of agrichemicals management, biodiversity conservation, and water pollution; and
- an FAO project on land degradation neutrality (LDN) for improved equity, sustainability, and resilience, highlighting it as a good application of the LDN conceptual framework of “avoid, reduce, reverse.”
Bierbaum concluded by identifying areas of forthcoming STAP work on co-benefits, the blue economy, scenario planning, transformational change, natural capital approaches, and the report to the GEF Assembly.
During discussion, GEF CEO Rodríguez highlighted the importance of both GEF-8 and GEF-9 project funding in light of the latest climate change models. Council Members expressed appreciation for guidance on what constitutes a climate-relevant project for funding purposes, and noted the need for greater inclusion of social science components, such as indicators measuring impacts in rural areas. One Council Member questioned the lack of references to the COVID-19 pandemic. Bierbaum replied that most project identification forms have sections on COVID-19 and it is also taken into account when preparing projects.
Relations with Conventions and Other International Institutions
This agenda item involved three sections: presentations by the Executive Secretaries of four conventions the GEF serves; an update on the Glasgow Climate Change Conference; and consideration of a report on the conventions.
Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary, UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), highlighted that GEF funding incubated the Great Green Wall project when it started, and reported it is now receiving funding from banks. He said UNCCD COP 15 will take place in May 2022 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.
Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), said the postponement of the January 2022 sessions of the subsidiary bodies will delay Parties’ input to GEF-8. She emphasized that upcoming decisions in multilateral processes, including the second part of CBD COP 15 in mid-2022, will have profound implications for the future and that a strong GEF-8 replenishment is essential.
Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary, Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions, said allocation of resources for managing persistent organic pollutants (POPs) under the GEF has not been commensurate with the evolution of the Stockholm Convention. He discussed expectations for the triple-COP meeting that is expected to take place in-person in June 2022, and said it would discuss guidance to GEF-8.
Monika Stankiewicz, Executive Secretary, Minamata Convention, discussed plans for an in-person fourth COP session in Bali, Indonesia, in March 2022. She highlighted that Parties’ first full national reports are due at the end of December 2021 and noted the need to do a better job in sharing information on results of investments in implementation.
During discussion, Council Members highlighted: collaboration between the GEF and the Green Climate Fund (GCF); the GEF’s involvement in the Marine Biological Diversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) process; and the GEF’s work to ensure co-benefits from addressing environmental issues, such as pollution, biodiversity, and climate change.
Ovais Sarmad, Deputy Executive Secretary, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), provided an update on the COP 26 outcomes, including the completion of the “Paris Agreement rulebook.“ He noted the attention to and financing announced for adaptation, including the establishment of a Work Programme on the Global Goal on Adaptation. He reiterated the importance of an enhanced transparency framework on financing in order to build trust.
In response, GEF CEO Rodríguez welcomed guidance from the UNFCCC, especially on GEF climate financing, and noted the joint partnership between the GEF and the GCF. Council Members expressed concern that the increase in adaptation support should not be at the expense of support for mitigation, and highlighted the need for funding to support the preparation of Biennial Transparency Reports (BTRs) under the Paris Agreement, among other issues.
Council Members then considered the report on “Relations with the Conventions and Other International Institutions,” and adopted a decision welcoming the report and requesting the GEF network to continue to work with recipient countries to reflect the guidance and national priorities in their GEF programming and activities.
On Thursday, 9 December, the Council will discuss planning for the seventh GEF Assembly and the Work Program, among other agenda items.
To receive free coverage of global environmental events delivered to your inbox, subscribe to the ENB Update newsletter.