Stockholm/Nairobi, 17 June 2002 - Klaus Toepfer, UNEP's Executive Director, will call on heads of state to make the replenishment of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) a top priority and a key, concrete, outcome of the World Summit on Sustainable Development. The summit is scheduled to commence on August 26 in Johannesburg, South Africa and comes after this month's G8 summit in Canada where the issue of re-vitalizing the GEF is likely to be discussed.
The GEF has, over the past 10 years, committed more than US$ 4 billion and mobilized some US$ 9 billion for more than 1,000 projects in 162 countries.
Successes include helping developing countries to cope with the impacts of global warming to ones that are assisting poorer nations to conserve wildlife, monitor and improve the health of international waters and overcome land degradation.
Mr Toepfer, speaking in Stockholm, Sweden, at the 30th anniversary celebrations of the conference that led to the creation of UNEP, will tell delegates that a well-funded GEF must be made a priority.
"The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) will be a crucial test of the world's ability and its enthusiasm for tackling the very pressing problems facing people and the planet today. In April, in Monterrey, Mexico, developed countries including countries in the European Union and the United States pledged to increase overseas development aid significantly, reversing years of decline," he will say.
"This is a real turnaround and a good start. Now these pledges need to be turned in concrete actions at Johannesburg in areas such as water, energy and biodiversity. This year we also have the replenishment of the GEF. This fund has proved its worth time and time again and the money, given to it by developed nations, has in the main been very well spent. There are several, funding options on the table. I would urge developed nations in the run up to WSSD to make serious financial commitments to the fund so that all countries, so that all delegates, leave Johannesburg satisfied that it has been a summit of implementation and not another summit of promises, another meeting of declarations. UNEP is not isolated in this. The overwhelming majority of nations believe only a substantial replenishment is an acceptable outcome," he told delegates.
Mr Toepfer said it was not just the United Nations that believed the GEF was an important funding mechanism for sustainable development. Recently 16 independent auditors concluded that the GEF was an innovative, unique and successfully run body.
He added that the GEF was also a unique partnership between UN organizations and the Bretton Woods institutions as represented by the World Bank Group.
Mr Toepfer was speaking in the wake of the final preparatory meeting for WSSD which was held in Bali, Indonesia. While some progress was achieved, in common with most delegates he conceded that far more needs to be done to ensure that the Johannesburg summit is a success.
"Out latest Global Environment Outlook, the work of over 1,000 scientists and experts around the globe, gives us the hard facts and tough choices that are needed to restore the health and natural wealth of this wonderful blue planet. Unless action is taken now we face, in 30 years time, the prospect of half the world's people living in water stressed areas, over 70 per cent of the Earth's surface impacted by roads, cities and other infrastructure developments and concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at 450 parts per million, on track for a doubling from pre-industrial levels by 2050," he said.
"But we do not need to look to the future to see how the unsustainable life-styles of the richer parts of the world, and the poverty of the poorer parts, are threatening the Earth's life support systems. Around a third of the world's fish stocks are in a degraded state as a result of over-fishing fueled by subsidies estimated at up to US$ 20 billion a year, around half the world's rivers are seriously depleted and polluted and some two billion hectares of soil, equal to an area the size of the United States and Mexico combined, is classed as degraded. Our motto is Environment for Development, for without the environment you can never have the kind of development that can last. If we are to break the current impasse we will have to balance the needs and aspirations of both developed and developing countries. The GEF, which is administered by a secretariat in Washington DC, is not a new funding arm but an established one. It has been agreed that it is now due for re-vitalization so it can continue its excellent work. Let's us now do this and give it the financial resources needed to carry on with its important activities," he said.
Note to Editors: The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is an international financial mechanism providing new and additional grant and concessional funding to developing countries and those with economies in transition to assist them to meet, within the framework of sustainable development, the agreed incremental costs of measures needed to achieve global environmental benefits in four focal areas:
§ biological diversity
§ climate change
§ international waters, and
§ ozone layer depletion
The incremental costs of activities concerning land degradation, as they relate to the four focal areas are also eligible for funding, and it is proposed that land degradation be designated a new focal area at the next GEF Assembly to be held in October 2002.
The GEF has been the financial mechanism to the CBD and to the UNFCCC, since 1994 and 1995 respectively, and has more recently been designated the interim financial mechanism to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and the financial mechanism to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. Currently, 171 countries participate in the GEF.
The GEF operates on the basis of partnership among three implementing agencies, UNDP, UNEP and the World Bank, responsible for project development, implementation and management. GEF policy and programmes are determined by the GEF Council - made up of representatives of constituency groupings of member states, meeting twice per year - and reviewed periodically by the GEF Assembly of all member states. Support to the development of policy and programme, and coordination of their implementation, is provided by the GEF Secretariat.
The GEF was officially established in October 1991, for a three-year pilot phase. Core contributions to the Trust Fund for the pilot phase amounted to US$ 841.64 million, as audited at 30 June, 2001.
In 1994, in the first replenishment of the restructured GEF, thirty-four nations pledged US$ 2,023 million. Commitments subsequently received amounted to US$ 2,017.77 million of which US$2,012.29 had been paid as of 15 April 2002.
In 1998, thirty-six donors agreed to a second replenishment of the GEF in the amount of US$ 2,750 million. This amount was comprised of new pledges from donors totaling US$ 1,991 million, unallocated donor funds from the GEF-1 replenishment totaling US$ 687 million, and a funding gap of US$ 72 million. Commitments subsequently received as of 15 April 2002 amounted to US$1,969.28 million. Of this US$ 1,701.48 had been paid by 15 April 2002.
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UNEP News Release: 2002/48