Multi-Focal Area

Earth Observation and the GEF

In the 28 years since the Global Environment Facility (GEF) was created, a digital revolution has taken place. Data from satellite remote sensing and other Earth observation technology have become much more regular, widespread, less costly and accessible. Together with scientific and technological advances such as cloud computing, machine learning, and data sharing, these data offer more opportunity to observe, monitor, and predict environmental and social phenomena with greater efficiency and precision.

Many GEF projects and programs are using Earth observation data to design, implement, monitor, and evaluate interventions. However, the uptake and use of Earth observation technology by GEF agencies is uneven. Since 2017, the Project Information Form (PIF) requires project proponents to provide a map and geo-coordinates of the project’s location.  A PIF map could benefit from being integrated with information derived from Earth observation, but there remains limited guidance on how this information should be provided.

The STAP document provides a summary of a more detailed technical primer currently under development to encourage greater use of Earth observation data and technologies in GEF projects. This will provide: a detailed explanation of Earch observation, including information on data sources and platforms; GEF and non-GEF case studies to illustrate how these data and tools can be used; guidance on how to meet the requirement to provide a project map and geo-coordinates; and recommendations to encourage the use of Earth observation by the GEF.

Published Date:
12/2019

Achieving enduring outcomes from GEF investment

Investment in GEF-7 is increasingly seeking greater integration and more innovation, and for investments to be scaled to deliver transformational change and consequently much more impact. The GEF needs to be confident that global environmental benefits will endure. 

The extensive literature on achieving project outcomes and impact increasingly emphasises success factors focused specifically on durability. The simple logic chain here is that engaging key stakeholders and incentivising them will build stakeholder trust and motivation; building the capacity of stakeholders and institutions as part of incentivising them as well as emphasising diversity of inputs will help ensure enduring capacity and financing; emphasising diversity and adaptability along with a good application of systems thinking and learning will build resilience in the outcomes.

In an earlier paper, STAP made recommendations on how to improve integration in the design of GEF projects. There are common elements in this paper on durability which builds on and extends those recommendations, and other previous STAP analysis, to show how to embed the requirement to consider long-term durability more explicitly in project outcomes and impacts.

This paper also sets out principles for securing durability in project outcomes and impacts built round four themes: 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. Enduring transformational change will require consideration of new stakeholders, new partnerships, and multi-stakeholder platforms.

 

Appendix to STAP paper, "Achieving enduring outcomes from GEF investment": a short literature review

This appendix reviews literature on sustainability and durability in project outcomes, coupled with scaling of impact and sustainability of projects in the face of future change.  About 100 sources were reviewed, including mostly peer-reviewed literature but also assessments of project portfolios by a range of development funders and foundations.  This appendix summarizes key findings from this literature outside the GEF family of reports from STAP and the IEO.  The main text draws selectively on this appendix, and also links it to findings framed by GEF publications.

Published Date:
06/2019

Local commons for global benefits: indigenous and community-based management of wild species, forests and drylands

A large proportion – up to half – of the world’s land area is used or communally-managed by indigenous people and local communities (IPLCs). This includes a large share of the planet’s remaining high-quality, high-biodiversity ecosystems. These lands are critical for achieving global environmental benefits related to biodiversity, climate change mitigation, and addressing land degradation through the management and conservation of wild species, forests, and drylands – here collectively referred to as “wild resources”.

However, governance over much of these lands is weak. Communities have no legally recognized tenure – a fundamental basis for robust governance – over around 80% of this area. At the same time, central governments often lack the capacity and resources to effectively manage these vast and often remote lands. This creates de facto “open access” areas susceptible to uncontrolled and destructive exploitation, which may be via mining, logging, agricultural encroachment, hunting, or wildlife trafficking.

Strengthening community rights to manage land and resources is showing promise as an approach to deliver on biodiversity, climate change mitigation, and land degradation objectives. Clear principles and fundamental design characteristics have emerged from extensive research to guide interventions to support and establish robust governance of local “commons” – and interventions often fail when these are not followed.

There is a clear need and opportunity for the GEF to stimulate transformational change through restoring, strengthening, or establishing sound and inclusive community-based governance of traditional “commons”, promoting achievement of global environmental benefits.

Published Date:
06/2019

Innovation and the GEF

The GEF was created to be innovative in its design, governance, and operation. Determining how the GEF would be "innovative" in technology, promoting policies, sector transformation, and business models, has been a central debate ever since. The GEF has evolved in many ways -- expanding its scope, adding more agency partners, testing new modalities, and more. Nevertheless, the world in which it operates has changed even more dramatically.

The GEF invests about $1 billion each year. Public expenditure will never be enough to solve major environmental problems. This means doing much more with the funds available: finding ways to leverage more investment for each GEF dollar, identifying creative uses of emerging technologies, and engaging a wider range of partners to promote policy and institutional reform.

All of the GEF agencies have extensive experience in supporting technological, institutional, and business innovations. The incentives for greater innovation in the GEF are clear: increased environmental effectiveness (to achieve deeper and wider changes), economic efficiency (to achieve more benefits for the same amount of investment), and the longevity of results (to secure self-sustaining mechanisms with durable outcomes).

This paper reviews the GEF's experience with innovation in technology, finance, business models, policy, and institutional change, and makes a number of recommendations in each of these contexts. In addition, it makes a number of cross-cutting recommendations on: defining a risk appetite; responsibility for innovation; cultivating innovation in design; and encouraging adaptive implementation and the exchange of lessons.

Published Date:
02/2019

Novel entities

A valuable lesson from past ‘innovative’ or ‘novel’ solutions to human challenges is the later realization that some choices led to unintended harm to the Earth’s system. For instance, chlorofluorocarbons -  introduced for use in the manufacture of aerosol sprays, blowing agents, solvents, and as replacements for toxic refrigerants -  were later discovered to deplete stratospheric ozone. Similarly, several chemicals intended to improve agriculture and industrial processes, such as dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs), were later found to be persistent pollutants that harm the ecosystem and human health. One of the challenges for the GEF is deciding which new technologies offer solutions that can increase global environmental benefits while minimizing  potential adverse  impacts, how these technologies relate to its mission, in what time frame, and what strategies will capture the most benefits. STAP therefore, commissioned a study to identify new and upcoming technological advances relevant to GEF’s work and to develop an approach for responding to them. These so-called ‘novel entities,’ are defined as “things created and introduced into the environment by human beings that could have positive or negative disruptive effects on the Earth’s system.”

Published Date:
12/2018

Novel Entities and the GEF

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) needs to be aware of the opportunities and potential benefits that new entities and technologies can offer in delivering global environmental benefits and should be mindful of the potential for new entities to become major global environmental problems. This report presents the findings of a study commissioned by the STAP, and implemented by the Environmental Law Institute, to identify novel entities of relevance to the GEF. For the study, novel entities are broadly defined as “things created and introduced into the environment by human beings that could have positive or negative disruptive effects on the earth system; and may include synthetic organic pollutants, radioactive materials, genetically modified organisms, nanomaterials, micro-plastics”.  The study identified seven novel entities that could positively or negatively impact the work of the GEF including technology-critical elements, for example, rare earth elements; next-generation nanotechnology; blockchain technology; gene editing including Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR); cellular agriculture; engineered bio-based materials; and nano-enabled energy. This report presents a description of these novel entities and provides advice to the GEF on possible actions for harnessing the opportunities presented by the novel entities and preventing unintended negative impacts of the entities on the environment.

Published Date:
06/2018

Environmental security: dimensions and priorities

Environmental security underpins the rationale for investment in global environmental benefits, and is essential to maintain the earth's life-supporting ecosystems generating water, food, and clean air. Reducing environmental security risks also depends fundamentally on improving resource governance and social resilience to natural resource shocks and stresses. The environment is better protected in the absence of conflict and in the presence of stable, effective governance. Environmental security is relevant to all of the GEF’s focal areas; therefore, addressing environmental security in an explicit, consistent and integrated manner is essential to delivering global environmental benefits, including the long-term sustainability of project investments. This STAP paper outlines four dimensions of particular salience for the GEF and recommends near-term and long-term actions that can be taken to enhance positive benefits that link the environment and human security, and minimize the negative impacts or risks.

 

Published Date:
06/2018

A future food system for healthy human beings and a healthy planet

Food production will need to significantly increase in order to feed the growing global population. However, the current mainly linear food production and consumption model has had significant deleterious effects on the environment, including land degradation, climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation, chemical pollution, freshwater abstraction, and fresh and marine water pollution. This STAP paper presents solutions that can help improve the sustainability of current agri-food system in both the short and long terms. It highlights the role of a circular economy approach in tackling the problem and concludes with a set of advice to the Global Environment Facility on its possible role in improving the sustainability of current agri-food sector through its programmes and investments.

Published Date:
06/2018

Plastics and the circular economy

Plastics are one of the world’s greatest industrial innovations, but the sheer scale of their production and poor disposal practices are resulting in growing negative effects on human health and the environment, including on climate change, marine pollution, biodiversity, and chemical contamination, which require urgent action. The circular economy, an alternative to current linear, make, use, dispose, economy model, has been proposed as a solution to plastic pollution challenge. In this paper, the STAP analysed the role of the circular economy in solving the plastic challenge, highlighting some examples of successful circular solutions. The paper, however, emphasised that the circular economy alone will not solve the global plastic problem, and indicated that an all-encompassing solution must seek to reduce demand and produce only essential plastic products. The paper concludes with a set of advice to the Global Environment Facility on its possible role in solving the global plastic pollution problem. 

Published Date:
06/2018

Financing Innovation: Opportunities for the GEF

Ahead of the GEF’s 7th replenishment cycle, the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP) of the GEF is interested in exploring ways that innovation contributes to GEF objectives, and the GEF may promote innovation more effectively.  This review is also timely insofar as the opportunities and challenges related to innovative approaches have changed dramatically since the GEF’s creation, starting as a pilot in 1991 and formalized by an Instrument in 1994.  GEF responsibilities have greatly expanded, many additional agencies have been given access to GEF resources, and much has been learned about what does – and doesn’t work in response to global environmental challenges.  Advances in technologies have created opportunities for new solutions.  Perhaps most dramatically, the world of global finance has expanded enormously, particularly in the form of private investments and support for new technologies.  The deliberations associated with GEF 7 thus call for a fresh look at the role of the GEF in this rapidly evolving financial landscape.  This paper looks specifically at how GEF might identify and support innovative approaches for the GEF in relation to technology, business models, and policy, as well as opportunities associated with more creative use of financial instruments, particularly non-grant support.

Published Date:
06/2018

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