Chair's Update - July 2019

Greetings!

STAP has been very busy over the last few months, working with the GEF Secretariat and agencies helping to build sound science into the GEF’s new Impact Programs (IPs) on Food Systems, Land Use and Restoration, and Sustainable Landscapes in drylands, and the Congo and Amazon basins.  Collectively the IPs will address key drivers of environmental degradation, and offer the potential to promote transformational change, thereby increasing the impact of GEF investments.

In addition to the IPs, the Panel screened other projects and programs, including e-mobility, the Global Wildlife Program, and chemicals and waste in Small Island Developing States (SIDS), in what was the GEF’s biggest-ever work program – a total of almost $1billion.   

At the June meeting of the GEF Council, I also presented three new STAP papers, and a fourth, on land degradation neutrality, which is under development.

On durability, because the GEF needs to be confident that global environmental benefits from its investments will endure long-term, well beyond the life-time of the project. Our literature review found that increasingly four ‘success factors’ focussed on durability: engaging the right stakeholders; building the incentives for these key actors to act; incorporating adequate diversity and flexibility in project design and implementation; and underpinning it all with a systems-thinking approach. STAP’s advice to the GEF on durability buttressed our earlier work on integration.

On climate risk screening, because GEF investments are increasingly exposed to risks associated with climate change and natural disasters, while at the same time GEF funding contributes to the resilience of human and natural systems in the face of these risks. Climate risk screening is needed not only to ensure projects are resilient to shocks, but also for transformation and durability. Building on our earlier work, this paper provides an overview of climate risks, risk assessment procedures, and tools based on the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) and scientific literature which will help GEF agencies to update their climate screening processes. And I’ll continue to provide updates on progress with climate risk screening in my reports and presentations to the Council.

STAP’s advice and recommendations on durability and climate risk screening were well-received by the GEF Council, which asked that this be well-reflected in projects and programs submitted to the Council.

Local Commons for Global Benefits was the eighth and final paper in STAP’s contribution to GEF-7.  Strengthening community rights to manage land and resources is a promising approach to delivering biodiversity, climate change mitigation, and land degradation goals. There is evidence to suggest that where community-managed forests are legally-supported they perform as well as, or even better than, state-managed protected areas, in terms of avoiding deforestation, maintaining forest condition, and retaining carbon.

In 2015 the UNCCD introduced the new concept of Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN), which was later adopted as a target of Goal 15 of the SDGs, Life on Land: 120 countries have committed to pursue voluntary LDN targets. In GEF-7, the GEF is supporting countries in their pursuit of LDN in the Land Degradation focal area, and through the IPs. STAP is developing guidelines for developing projects to deliver Land Degradation Neutrality, which will be presented at the UNCCD COP 14 in Delhi, in September.

Looking ahead, in my presentation to the Council I mentioned that STAP was working on a number of new products, including on the application of blockchain to GEF investment, remote sensing, a primer on the theory of change, and the implications for the GEF of the Global Commission on Adaptation, on which Naoko is one of the Commissioners, and I am a science adviser.

All this will make for a busy Summer and Fall, in the run-up to the December Council, and before long we will begin to turn our attention towards GEF-8, as well as continuing to offer our best scientific and technical advice to help the GEF do an even better job of maximising the delivery of global environmental benefits.