Over the last 6 months, STAP has reviewed what a science and technology perspective can contribute to the GEF’s thinking about replenishment for GEF-8.
A brief review of the latest science on global environmental change leads to two compelling conclusions.
First, the drivers of global change have contributed to increased systemic risk, despite good intentions and some positive progress. The bottom line is that greenhouse gas emissions are increasing, as is the rate of biodiversity loss, there is still net land degradation, aquifers are being depleted, waste is increasing, most fisheries are overfished, and ocean pollution is becoming more pervasive.
The White Paper on a GEF COVID-19 response strategy sets out the background to the pandemic and the opportunities for GEF investment at the program scale, and in partnership at the global scale. As the White Paper notes:
“The pandemic reinforces the logic behind GEF’s transformational programs and underlines the need for a lasting transformation to a sustainable, inclusive, resilient, low-carbon, low-polluting, nature-positive, and circular economy. Such an economy and a society will build resilience to thrive despite the inevitable shocks that will come through climate change and future pandemics.” (paragraph 9)
Second, the GEF’s resources remain modest compared to the need. The GEF can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of its investment incrementally, as well as by being an effective catalyst for investment by others. But STAP concludes that the GEF needs to evolve, both in its strategic positioning and resourcing if it is to play a bigger role in delivering the transformational change needed to achieve the objectives of the multilateral environmental agreements.
STAP suggests that GEF-8 consider a three-pronged strategy:
a) Ensure that its investments are efficient, transformative, and durable in producing global environmental benefits (GEBs)
STAP suggests that a strategy of incremental improvement will not be sufficient to deal with increasing rates of global environmental change.
b) Ensure that its overall portfolio is more integrated and coherently transformational
Incremental improvements will increase the transformative impact of the GEF’s portfolio as a whole, but STAP suggests that is insufficient to truly tackle the root causes of global environmental problems, and will not, by itself, mobilise the greater investment needed.
c) Contribute to the transformation of global economic systems, using its convening power and leverage, to form partnerships with others to deliver more environmentally sustainable development.
For example, GEF can help to ensure that investors have the information they need to make better decisions, or work with selected groups of countries to enact policies for human well-being rather than only growth in GDP, or engage with policymakers and the private sector to establish stronger incentives for companies to deliver better environmental outcomes.