The World Bank Group-Global Environment Facility (GEF) Program is one of the institution’s largest and longest standing trust-funded programs. Since 1991, when the World Bank helped to establish the GEF, it has integrated global environmental benefits across the Bank programs through more than 790 investment projects and programs in 120 countries (pdf) spanning every region of the world.
GEF grants directly support actions to combat major environmental issues such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, polluted international waters, land degradation and desertification, and persistent organic pollutants, as well as stimulate green growth. The World Bank Group program has collectively channeled over $4.8 billion (representing 38 percent of total GEF funding disbursed) in GEF grants to the private sector, NGOs, and client countries over the past two decades, and stands out among for its sustained track record in helping design and support implementation of innovative and tailored solutions to complex multi-sector challenges. Bank Group engagement with the GEF has similarly attracted the largest share of additional funding to global environment issues at $33 billion, drawing on its capacity to bring multiple sources of financing together under a common investment framework.
The program supports an active portfolio of over 200 investments which integrate learning by doing, support institutional change and policy reforms, and provide technical assistance to encourage innovation and test new approaches. It has been critical to promoting “readiness” for scaling up second generation investments by focusing on building a solid foundation for other financing partners to invest.
Over 40 percent of World Bank Group-GEF projects have been blended up-front with other World Bank resources, while many others have directly led to larger scale follow-on investments. Projects managed by the Bank have also efficiently forged links with other financing sources and global programs, including the Climate Investment Funds (CIF), Carbon Finance, bilateral donors, the Global Fund for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP), and the Water Partnership Program (WPP), to make the most of shared agendas and thereby generate significant economies of scale.
GEF grants managed by the World Bank Group support low-carbon and carbon-resilient development in client countries that help them adapt to a changing climate by investing in climate resilient approaches. They are used to support sustainable conservation and management of protected areas, integrate biodiversity conservation into production landscapes, and design sustainable financing to encourage long-term biodiversity conservation through, for examples, conservation trust funds to ensure ongoing funding to support management efforts or payment for ecosystem schemes. Efforts also focus on prevention of carbon loss from forests, soil erosion and salinization, recovery of marginal lands, and the introduction of climate risk insurance through adaptation strategies to encourage sustainable land and water management, as well as to enhance trans-boundary cooperation and management of shared water resources in order to mitigate water pollution and build capacity and cooperation across river basins, aquifers, and seas.
With a view to phasing out production and use of toxic chemicals, GEF grants also help Bank Group-implemented projects demonstrate safe techniques to destroy harmful chemicals, promote safe chemical use, and introduce emission control technologies to capture toxic gases. GEF grants are frequently paired with other sources of financing to help countries reduce vulnerabilities and increase the impact of the investment in global environmental benefits at the local level.
The World Bank Group helps client countries identify and tailor appropriate opportunities where targeted concessional funding can help advance national priorities in a more sustainable manner, by ensuring that inter-linked global environment issues are embedded in national investment frameworks in a holistic manner.
The GEF program holds a fundamental belief in the higher impact from and merits of “mainstreaming” global environmental issues across all aspects of economic development. We believe it is impossible to separate global environment issues from our core mission of poverty reduction given the strong connections between these issues, and that some global environment issues such as climate change are already impacting national economic development globally in negative ways.
The program aims to turn collective global challenges into opportunities for change and transformation onto a more sustainable economic development path, working with the private sector and individual countries to innovate and test new approaches to increase and influence impact at the global, regional, and national levels.
The sixth replenishment of the GEF (2014-2018) has received pledges of over $4.43 billion to support developing countries' efforts to achieve the objectives of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). Donors have also agreed to contribute new financing to support the implementation of the 2013 Minamata Convention on Mercury. The World Bank Group-GEF Program stands ready to help client countries use their limited GEF resources to leverage diversified sources of investment to avoid fragmentation and promote higher impact, innovate, share experiences across countries, and promote sustainable transformation and scale-up.