News and Updates

The 6th Biennial International Waters Conference

Dead Zones Need Immediate Attention
Lack of oxygen in coastal waters will create major social and economic problems if not addressed faster, a new report says

[T]he growing problem of dead zones in the world’s coastal waters requires a faster response from the Global Environment Facility, according to a report by a scientific and technical advisory panel.

Authors of the report, Hypoxia and Nutrient Reduction in the Coastal Zone: Advice for Prevention, Remediation and Research, examined data about oceans where oxygen was drastically reduced and where it was completely depleted, creating areas commonly known as dead zones.

The study found that one of the most efficient ways to reduce oxygen depletion was to stem the flow of nutrients from fertilizers, municipal sewage or livestock waste into coastal waters. The report recommended that the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and its partners “urgently increase their support to nutrient reduction projects, building on GEF’s experience and leadership.”

“If the problem is managed at either the local or regional level, the problems can be reversed,” said Robert Diaz, an author of the report who has studied global dead zones for about 20 years.

The report was released at the Sixth GEF Biennial International Waters Conference held in Dubrovnik.

The four-day conference was organized by GEF and the United Nations Development Programme in cooperation with the Croatian government. It convened about 300 participants involved in GEF’s International Waters (IW) portfolio of projects.

The new study was unveiled and the advisory document was launched as part of the conference. It was undertaken by the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP), which is administered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and advises GEF.

“This advice from STAP is well timed to inform the GEF council that this issue is a critical one to address for our planet,” said GEF Senior Advisor Alfred M. Duda.

Even before the report was commissioned and issued, GEF was “a world leader in supporting measures to reduce nutrient pollution that contributes to coastal dead zones,” Duda said.

GEF regional projects have brought together 45 countries in East Asia, the Mediterranean and the Danube-Black Sea to reduce coastal pollution, he said.

“GEF has responded with 23 national projects on agriculture, municipal sewage, and industrial nutrient reduction in its international waters area, with $144 million in grants and $1.94 billion in co-financing,” Duda said.

One of the main goals of the study was to underscore the importance of hypoxia zones, or water areas with a depleted oxygen levels, said Thomas Hammond, STAP secretary.

Zones without any oxygen at all are anoxic zones, popularly referred to as dead zones. The number of hypoxic zones has doubled in each of the last five decades, the report said. There are now more than 500 in the world.

Hypoxia occurs when waters are overloaded with too many nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorous and silicon. Often these arrive in the coastal waters from farm fertilizers, municipal waste systems and livestock waste.

The oxygen depletion creates many social and environmental difficulties. It reduces fisheries production, kills marine life, threatens human health and makes the coast a less pleasant place to visit, which harms the tourism industry.

Hypoxic areas also emit potent greenhouse gasses including nitrous oxide and methane, the study said.

“Left unremediated, coastal hypoxia leads to serious and mounting social, economic and ecological costs,” the report said.

The launch of the study included a presentation of work by others scientists working on the problem and suggesting solutions.

The STAP report studied coastal areas that are part of GEF transboundary projects. It made suggestions on how the independent financial organization should proceed. Recommendations to prevent and remediate hypoxia included:

  • Urgently increase support to nutrient reduction projects.
  • Establish principles to support tests of management responses to permanent and seasonal hypoxic zones.
  • Develop a toolkit for evaluating hypoxia that can be used to evaluate new projects. It could be similar to the current Persistent Organic Pollutants Toolkit and should be available on GEF’s IW:Learn website.
  • Tools to address hypoxia and nutrient reduction that have already developed by GEF’s Large Marine Ecosystem projects should be included in its International Waters Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis and Strategic Action Programs.
  • All Large Marine Ecosystem (LME) projects should examine hypoxia in their areas and establish a monitoring, prevention and remediation program if one does not already exists.
  • Hypoxia research proposals should be developed to learn more about the problem and to guide GEF responses. They should also address the associated problem of disruption of the global nitrogen cycle.

The best chance of stemming the problem should be focused at the source of the pollution, the study said.

Problems also occur when coastal water layers become stratified and do not mix preventing oxygenation of the layers. These issues are harder to fix, the study said.

The problem can be tackled, but there is no “silver bullet,” Hammond said.

“You have work with multiple jurisdictions, multiple actors, particularly the private sector,” he said. “GEF is extremely well positioned to lead the way on this because of its multilateral configuration and focus on local action to deliver global benefits.”

Prepared By: Lev Neretin | 13 December 2011

Published Date:

The Second Session of the Plenary of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES-2)

L-R: Sandra Díaz, MEP & STAP member, and Anne Larigauderie, incoming IPBES  Executive Secretary L-R: Sandra Díaz, MEP & STAP member, and Anne Larigauderie, incoming IPBES Executive Secretary

[T]he second session of the Plenary of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES-2) met from 9-14 December 2013 in Antalya, Turkey. Over 400 participants attended the meeting, representing IPBES member and non-member governments, UN agencies and convention secretariats, intergovernmental organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and various stakeholder groups.

Delegates adopted a set of decisions, known as “the Antalya Consensus,” which include: the work programme for 2014- 2018, including fast track, thematic, regional and subregional assessments and activities for building capacities; a conceptual framework that considers different knowledge systems; and rules and procedures for the Platform on, inter alia, the nomination of future Multidisciplinary Expert Panel (MEP) members and procedures for the preparation of the Platform’s deliverables. In addition, delegates agreed to a decision on a collaborative partnership arrangement with four UN agencies. Although some issues remain unresolved, including some of the rules and procedures and issues on communications and stakeholder engagement, many praised the Antalya Consensus as a major step towards operationalizing the Platform. Along these lines, during Friday’s plenary session, it was announced that Anne Larigauderie has been appointed as the first IPBES Executive Secretary.

Relevant Documents Are Available Below

Summary Report

Report Compilation

To find a full list of working documents and information documents of IPBES-2, please click here.

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STAP presents at the GEF International Waters Science Conference 2012 (IWSC 2012)

Jakob Granit Chair of WG11_1_0STAP presents at the GEF International Waters Science Conference 2012 (IWSC 2012) “Setting the International Waters Science Agenda for the next Decade.”

[T]he IW Science Conference 2012 held on 24-26 September, 2012 in Bangkok, Thailand  aimed to address science needs, highlight science-based results and technological innovations achieved by the projects in the GEF International Waters portfolio over the past 20 years, but also to improve the measurement and delivery of results, inform the portfolio of new developments and emerging issues from relevant fields, enhance the use of science in the GEF IW portfolio and help set the science agenda for the IW portfolio. Over the last three years the GEF UNEP-UNU IW:Science project has uncovered some of the key findings and success factors in enhancing the use of science in GEF IW projects. The IWSC 2012 provided a key forum for bringing these findings to a wider audience.

STAP was helping GEF partners to prepare the conference and provided important input to its discussions. STAP member, Jakob Granit, organized and moderated a critical session at this meeting discussing science-policy interface. The session emphasized that the main objectives of the GEF International Waters focal area – the promotion of collective management for transboundary water systems with the aim of contributing to sustainable use and maintenance of ecosystem services - remains as relevant today as it was when formulated in 1995. The GEF has created well-respected tools to apply science to determine baseline status, project design and management in addressing challenging issues in transboundary waters, but the main cause of the continuing degradation of transboundary water systems remains to be due to governance and not a science deficit. Given the evolution of governance from top-down government-driven towards a ‘network-centric’ world in which civil society, business and government collectively negotiate outcomes and benefits, based on a nexus of drivers including water security, energy security, food security and the provision of ecosystem goods and services, science needs to be relevant for collective action.

Accordingly the role of social sciences should be increased within the GEF to support policy choices for collective action. “Transboundary waters governance and management may link more strongly to the emerging broader regional political and economic frameworks and institutions and it could be argued that leveraging of regional economic institutions is key to ensuring sustainability beyond the catalytic GEF intervention. The TDA/SAP process could be augmented to widen the evidence base underpinning policy impact and post-project up-scaling of GEF results; upstream activities addressing the political economy of cooperation could be included.” – noted Jakob Granit at the IWSC 2012.

Prepared By: Lev Neretin

Bangkok | 24-26 September 2012

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Think Beyond Plastic: Addressing Drivers of Marine Plastics Pollution by Harnessing Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Market Power

DRussoESm (2)On 27 April, 2015, Daniela Russo, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Think Beyond Plastic, gave an overview of the most recent developments in the rapidly expanding field of material, manufacturing and design innovation across a range of sectors with an emphasis on the substantial contribution of alternatives to help address marine plastics from a range of pollution sources: food packaging and services, medical equipment, personal care products, construction, transportation and agriculture. Many of these disruptive innovations have great potential to transform markets by reducing the flow of plastic waste into the ocean, while enabling new businesses for the green and blue economy models, creating jobs and investment opportunities.  The presentation took place at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) office in Washington D.C., and was followed by a stimulating discussion that included US government officials, and representatives from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and several non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Plastics production and consumption continues to increase at an exponential rate driven by the growth in consumption rates observed in the rapidly urbanizing countries of Asia and Central Europe. Global plastic production rose to 299 million tonnes in 2013, representing a 3.9% increase over 2012 levels. Around 4 per cent of world oil and gas production is used as feedstock for plastics and an additional 3-4% is used for energy during manufacturing. A major portion of plastics produced each year is used to make disposable packaging or other short-lived products that are discarded soon after use. Existing waste management strategies such as energy recovery and recycling are not adequately coping with increasing levels of plastic production. As a result of this unabated expansion of plastics, marine and freshwater habitats from the equatorial to the polar regions, are contaminated by plastic debris.

Daniella Russo underlined the significant financial and reputational risks of unchecked plastics consumption imposed on many businesses in the future, with the increased sensitization of the public about  the pervasive nature of plastic products, the toxic elements often added as plasticizers to confer appropriate properties to make them fit for purpose, their challenging end-of-life disposal, and the dependence of traditional plastics industries on oil and gas derivatives, Acknowledging the challenge of finding alternatives that offer comparable price, convenience and performance, she emphasized that innovations in materials, manufacturing, design and recycling offer tremendous business opportunities that Think Beyond Plastic is capitalizing on.

The social venture’s approach is to cut across various steps in the production supply chain, from substituting plastic with other materials manufactured from ubiquitous source inputs (such as bagasse and nanocrystalline cellulose), to innovating the design, manufacturing (converting methane to PHB etc.) and recycling of products that require the services traditionally provided by plastic. One of the key aspects of this approach lies in the Innovation Design Criteria matrix, whereby an innovation can only be considered as an alternative to plastic if it achieves both plastic price and performance, and it must be both scalable and sustainably sourced.

Furthermore, Russo explained the instrumental role Think Beyond Plastic plays in creating the right ecosystem for innovation to thrive by removing the main barriers to entrepreneurship, including access to expensive materials and innovation labs. Access to materials and equipment has to be supplemented by an enabling policy, regulatory and financial environment  to support entrepreneurs (e.g., setting of hazardous substance level benchmarks by government, low interest loans by private and development banks, government revolving fund schemes to support innovation, various financial credits etc.) to unlock the potential for lasting solutions to the plastic issue.

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Think Beyond Plastics is a social profit venture that aims to eradicate plastics marine pollution by harnessing the forces of innovation and entrepreneurship in materials, manufacturing, design and recycling. More information about the venture is available here.

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Mainstreaming Biodiversity in Production Landscapes

[T]he international conservation community has reason to celebrate the setting aside of over 12 percent of the Earth’s land surface for long-term protection. From minute reserves on oceanic islands to extensive mega reserves in tropical savannas and boreal forests, the protected area systems of the world have become the cornerstone of biodiversity conservation. During the past decade, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) has contributed over $1.2 billion, and leveraged $3.1 billion in cofinancing, to supporting this agenda.

What we at the GEF have learned, however, is that protected areas alone cannot ensure that our goal of achieving global biodiversity benefits for the planet and its six billion people will be met. Unless we address the root causes of biodiversity loss and incorporate biodiversity conservation into all development actions—and simultaneously incorporate development goals into our conservation programs— we will not reduce, much less reverse, the current rates of biodiversity loss.

This realization has convinced the GEF Council to approve new strategies within the GEF biodiversity work program. Strategic Priority 2 seeks to “mainstream biodiversity in production landscapes and sectors.” In attempting to position mainstreaming approaches into our work program, however, we found that the concept and its application were poorly understood by many stakeholders. It was, therefore, considered appropriate to refer this topic to the GEF’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP), which was established in 1992 to provide the GEF Council with strategic advice where appropriate.

STAP’s response is presented in this volume, based on a workshop held in Cape Town, South Africa, in September 2004. The workshop brought together experts from around the globe to review the mainstreaming concept, and to develop principles and conditions for its effective application. The workshop also identified areas for GEF interventions to promote the mainstreaming of biodiversity and to propose tools to assess the effectiveness of such interventions.

November 2005

DOWNLOAD Paper

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Bridging Science to Policy Gap

Nairobi-20130730-00348-2 Dr. Rosina speaking in Nairobi

Dr. Rosina Bierbaum, STAP Chair, speaks at UNEP/UN Complex in Nairobi, Kenya on "Bridging Science to Policy Gap" on 29th July 2013.

Dr. Bierbaum’s presentation talked about the role of assessments in the science/policy area, and lessons learned from working 20 years in the United States Government. She also elaborated on the ongoing National Climate Assessment in the United States and its implications for adaptation to climate change. The moderated discussion focused on adaptation to climate change as a universal agenda, and the opportunities and challenges for bridging the science to policy gap, and its implications for the development of the GEF-6 programming direction.

The presentation can be downloaded here.

 

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STAP Meeting 2014

STAP Meeting (Open Session), October 27, 2014

The STAP will once more run its Biannual meeting concurrently with the GEF Council meetings. For the Fall 2014 session, the STAP Open Meeting will be held on October 27, 2014 at the World Bank MC Building in Washington DC. The main meeting objectives are as follows:-

  • Finalize the major program activities of STAP in FY15 and GEF-6;
  • Review STAP’s contribution to the IAPs, GEF Knowledge Management;
  • Review of STAP Screening Process in GEF-6.

The meeting Agenda and STAP Provisional Work Programme for GEF-6 can be accessed at the links below.

STAP Contribution to the 47th Meeting of the GEF Council (October 28-30, 2014)

The GEF Council is a high level meeting of representatives from the GEF's 32 constituencies, who act as the GEF's governing board of directors. They are responsible for developing, adopting, and evaluating policies and programs for GEF-financed activities. Council meetings are open to Council Members, Council Alternate Members, and the GEF CEO or his/her representative. The STAP is one of the invitees to this biannual meeting of the GEF partnership, and at each Council Meeting the STAP Chair presents a written and visual report on the activities of the STAP. In addition, the STAP Work Programme, the implementation of the work programme, and any other strategic or policy-related views of the STAP requested by the Council can be presented at the Council Meetings.

The STAP Chair's Report and the STAP Provisional Work Programme for GEF-6 will be the main documents presented to the Council.

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International Waters Indicator Review Workshop

[T]his Workshop was co-organized by the GEF Secretariat and the Science Panel and held at UNESCO. In addition to the Final Report of the Workshop, presentations made and related papers, you will find links to background documents about the GEF's Resource Allocation Framework (RAF), Terms of Reference for the three Approach Papers and the Agenda and guidance paper for the Workshop.

Paris | 4 December 2008

DOWNLOAD Final Report

DOWNLOAD Agenda

DOWNLOAD Background Briefing

DOWNLOAD TOR for Papers

DOWNLOAD Ground Water Paper

DOWNLOAD Surface Water Paper

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The GEF CEO Forum on Innovation Partnership

Rotated ICTpic

[T]he GEF CEO Forum was held on December 18th, 2013 at the Institute for Electronic Government Briefing Center in Washington, DC. The objective of the Forum was to solicit expert perspectives on enhancing the role of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) in facilitating the use of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) to address global environmental challenges. This exploration is particularly critical as the GEF heads into its Sixth Replenishment (GEF-6).

The following key questions were discussed:

  1. What ICT options can be utilized to characterize drivers of environmental degradation and to devise robust approaches to monitor and address them?
  2. Who can build effective partnerships with the GEF to advance the use of ICT and how can such partnerships be developed?
  3. How can ICT help measuring short term results and long term impacts? What ICT tools can guide priority setting processes?

A select group of experts from various sectors of society were gathered to help answer these questions. In addition to members of the STAP and GEF Secretariat, participants included, inter alia, private sector representatives such as IBM, AECOM, Arup, Hitachi, CISCO and Amazon; public sector and academic representatives such as the White House- Office of Science and Technology/Policy, USEPA, Stanford University, The World Bank, UNDP, and UNIDO; as well as civil society representatives such as World Resources Institute (WRI), Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy (TNC). Participants were given the opportunity to form breakout discussion groups on the topics of Smarter Cities, Food and Agriculture, Forests and Land Use, and Data for Institutional Decision-making. Each working group came back to the Plenary with preliminary ideas for the incorporation of ICT into GEF-6 work within the assigned topic areas.

A summary report of the Forum will be published shortly and made available on this website. In the meantime, background information about the Forum can be found here, and the agenda can be found here.

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STAP Evidence Contributes to Decision on Marine and Coastal Biodiversity

cop-logo_1The evidence presented by STAP contributes to the CBD COP-11 decision on marine and coastal biodiversity

[T]wo reports prepared by STAP in collaboration with the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) were presented to the 11th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the CBD held in Hyderabad, India on 8-19 October 2012. These reports - Marine Spatial Planning in the Context of the Convention on Biological Diversity: A study carried out in response to CBD COP 10 decision X/29 andImpacts of Marine Debris on Biodiversity: Current Status and Potential Solutions,played an important role in informing CBD COP Decision XI/18 addressing impacts of marine debris on marine and coastal biodiversity (Section I, para 25-27) and marine spatial planning (Section III), respectively.

COP-11 decision on marine spatial planning requests CBD Parties and other partners to support further efforts on advancing marine spatial planning through development of guidance and information sharing as well as capacity building. CBD COP-11 recognizes firmly marine spatial planning as a useful tool in enhancing marine and coastal area management, including identification of ecologically or biologically significant marine areas, marine protected areas and other marine and coastal biodiversity spatial conservation measures.

The COP-11 decision on marine debris is the first time CBD acknowledges the global importance of the impacts of marine debris on marine and coastal biodiversity at the highest level. After the Convention on Migratory Species and itsCOP decision on marine debris, CBD calls on CBD parties and other partners to further their work to better understand these impacts, prepare practical guidance on preventing and mitigating impacts of marine debris on ecosystems, and enhance regional capacity building efforts to prevent and reduce sources of marine debris.

Prepared By: Lev Neretin

Hyderabad | 8-19 October 2012

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