News and Updates

STAP’s Participation at the UNCCD COP 11

STAP event 2[T]he Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel of the Global Environment Facility (STAP/GEF) led two side events at the 11th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) held during the first week of the COP – 16th to 20th September 2013 in Windhoek, Namibia. The side events were organized jointly with the GEF.

The side events titled, “Global Environment Facility – Carbon Sequestration – A Valuable Global Benefit of Sustainable Land Management”; and, “The Global Environment Facility’s Carbon Benefits Project – new tools to measure carbon & the GEF’s experience applying the tools”, were held on 16th and 18th September 2013.

To find more information on this event, click here.

The objectives of the side events were as follows:

  1. Demonstrate the importance of the current work of the GEF Land Degradation Focal Area, with special reference to sustainable land management and the potential benefits derived from above- and below-ground sequestration of carbon.
  2. Illustrate our current scientific understanding of the relationship between soil organic carbon management and its importance to sustainable land management.
  3. Demonstrate a set of the carbon tools developed by UNEP-GEF’s Carbon Benefits Project and show how Parties could use the tools to monitor and report on Strategic Objective 3 (to generate global benefits through effective implementation of the UNCCD).
  4.  Contribute towards policies that support UNCCD’s efforts to generate global benefits through sustainable land management.

Gerard Govers, University of Leuven, Belgium, presented the scientific evidence as to how, why, and under what circumstances global benefits could be achieved through sustainable land management. This evidence is elaborated further in the STAP publication “Managing soil organic carbon for global benefits”, published by STAP in August 2013.  At the session, participants demonstrated an interest in understanding further the implications of soil organic carbon management on agricultural productivity and livelihoods. This included the vital effects of soil carbon management on plant available water – an important element for drylands, and areas affected by climate change risks, such as drought.

Eleanor Milne, Colorado State University, featured the simple assessment tool and the detailed assessment tool developed by the UNEP/GEF Carbon Benefits Project (CBP). The second half of the session profiled the GEF Agencies (UNEP, UNDP and IFAD) experiences with the carbon tools in land management projects, and sustainable forest management projects. The outcomes of the session demonstrated the GEF Agencies are testing the tools in land management and sustainable forest management projects, and showing their utility in practical project situations. Similarly, challenges in using the tools also were demonstrated – especially when applied to peatlands, since the values for the parameters in the tools are not well enough understood.   Additionally, the discussions featured how the tools are being used to validate carbon sequestered in projects on payment for ecosystem services. This demonstrated a prospect for using the tools beyond the expected reporting on carbon stock changes from land management projects.

Further information about the side events can be found at this link. The presentations also can be downloaded through here.

At the COP 11, STAP also observed the UNCCD’s Committee on Science and Technology and its discussions. Of interest to STAP for the development of its advice to the GEF, were several agenda items, notably:  “Advice on how best to measure progress on strategic objectives 1, 2 and 3 of The Strategy”. The agenda item featured advice by UNCCD’s Advisory Group of Technical Experts (AGTE) – an ad hoc group consisting of the scientific community and its efforts to refine the impact indicators of the 10-year Strategy. STAP is a member of the AGTE, and advised UNCCD on indicators prior to the establishment of this advisory group.

The AGTE proposal was adopted, with amendments.  STAP’s role in the AGTE was instrumental – above all in identifying an indicator for strategic objective 3: “Total terrestrial system carbon”. Equally, STAP’s advice encouraged the use of the CBP methodology so that countries can estimate carbon stock changes and report on their progress in addressing strategic objective 3: “To generate global benefits through effective implementation of the UNCCD”. STAP’s contributions in the AGTE were made possible through its advisory partnership with the GEF on the land degradation focal area – combined with its thorough scientific understanding of the UNEP/GEF Carbon Benefits Project. Ultimately, this is an example of STAP’s commitment to the GEF as it seeks to strengthen the scientific and technical coherence with the UNCCD to deliver global benefits.

The AGTE’s technical report and its recommendations to the CST and the COP can be accessed below, along with the final decision from these two UNCCD bodies.

Refinement of the Set of Impact Indicators on Strategic Objectives 1, 2 and 3 - Recommendations of the ad hoc Advisory Group of Technical Experts

Advice on How Best to Measure Progress on Strategic Objectives 1, 2 and 3 of The Strategy - Draft Decision Submitted by the Chairperson of the Committee on Science and Technology

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Sustainable Forest Management Workshop

[S]ustainable Forest Management Workshop was held in November 2010.

November 2010



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STAP Report to the Fifth GEF Assembly

STAP Report to the 5th GEF Assembly[T]he STAP is pleased to release a report for the 5th GEF Assembly in Cancun, Mexico. The report provides recommendations for supporting environmentally sustainable development in the Global Environment Facility's Sixth Replenishment Period (GEF-6), including specific advice related to Integrated Approaches as well as ideas for additional themes. The report also includes a summary of STAP accomplishments in GEF-5 and draws attention to the important role of science and knowledge management in future GEF programming.

To find more information and download the publication, click here.

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Reducing Black Carbon Can Save Lives and Help Combat Climate Change

Press Release:

Washington, D.C., 19 October 2015 - Black carbon causes millions of deaths every year and contributes to the warming of the planet. In the atmosphere it appears as air pollution, with emissions arising mainly from the combustion of diesel fuel and biofuels, coal-fired power stations, biomass cook stoves, brick kilns and vegetation burning in open fields.

The importance of reducing emissions of black carbon and other short-lived climate pollutants while simultaneously continuing efforts to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions, is the subject of a new advisory document, “Black Carbon Mitigation and the Role of the Global Environment Facility,” produced by the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP) of the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

In the publication, STAP recommends significant investments in accelerating the reduction of black carbon to directly support implementation of the recently announced Sustainable Development Goals in the areas of improved air quality, climate change mitigation, reduced climate vulnerability, and transfer of low-carbon technologies.

"The GEF is already addressing black carbon as part of its climate mitigation program. What we are proposing is to expand these nascent efforts across other areas of the GEF program, and to significantly expand the mitigation, ecosystem, and human health benefits that result from these activities,” said Rosina Bierbaum, STAP Chair.

Black carbon absorbs solar energy at rates of up to a million times more than carbon dioxide. Although only lasting in the atmosphere for a few days, it adds to the overall global warming process. It has been linked to a range of climate impacts and accelerated ice and snow melt and sensitive regions such as the Arctic and the Himalayas are particularly vulnerable to the warming and melting effects of black carbon.

Black carbon emissions also have adverse impacts on human health and ecosystems. According to the World Health Organization, indoor smoke from burning coal or wood is among the top ten major health risk factors globally, contributing to over 4 million premature deaths from illness from household air pollution each year. Women and children are particularly at risk.

Recommendations from the report for the GEF include: mainstreaming black carbon mitigation measures into their project portfolio; supporting programs and projects that focus on the reduction of black carbon emissions; measuring and reporting on the amount of black emissions avoided or reduced as a result of GEF-funded projects; and increasing awareness and the engagement of stakeholders involved in national, regional and international efforts to address black carbon mitigation.

The report will be presented to the 49th GEF Council Meeting that will take place in Washington D.C, from 20 to 22 October 2015.


About the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel

The Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel of the GEF (STAP) is an independent group of scientists supported by the United Nations Environment Programme, responsible for connecting the GEF to the most up-to-date and authoritative and globally representative science.

About the Global Environment Facility

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is a global partnership of 183 countries, 18 multilateral and civil society organizations, and the private sector tackling a wide spectrum of environmental challenges – including clean energy, protection of terrestrial and marine ecosystems, climate mitigation and adaptation, and cross-cutting problems such as sustainable urban development.

For more information, please contact:

Virginia Gorsevski, STAP Secretariat, UNEP, Tel.+1 202 785-0465

The full Press Release can be downloaded here.

The STAP Advisory document can be downloaded here:

Sims, R., V. Gorsevski and S. Anenberg (2015). Black Carbon Mitigation and the Role of the Global Environment Facility: A STAP Advisory Document. Global Environment Facility, Washington, D.C.


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Previous STAP Meeting Dates and Venue Information

Location Date
STAP I Panel Meeting Amsterdam, Netherlands January 21-23, 1998
STAP I Panel Meeting Washington DC, USA June 16-19, 1998
STAP II Panel Meeting Nairobi, Kenya February 10-12, 1999
STAP II Panel Meeting Paris, France June 4, 1999
STAP II Panel Meeting Washington DC, USA September 13-15, 1999
STAP II Panel Meeting Bridgetown, Barbados February 23-25, 2000
STAP II Panel Meeting Bangalore, India June 21-23, 2000
STAP II Panel Meeting Washington DC, USA September 18-22, 2000
STAP II Panel Meeting Washington DC, USA March 13-15, 2001
STAP II Panel Meeting Washington DC, USA October 23-25, 2001
STAP II Panel Meeting Nairobi, Kenya March 27-29, 2002
STAP III Panel Meeting Washington DC, USA September 26-28, 2002
STAP III Panel Meeting Washington DC, USA March 5-7, 2003
STAP III Panel Meeting Washington DC, USA October 6-8, 2003
STAP III Panel Meeting Washington DC, USA March 1-4, 2004
STAP III Panel Meeting Washington DC, USA October 6-8, 2004
STAP III Panel Meeting Washington DC, USA March 7-9, 2005
STAP III Panel Meeting Washington DC, USA April 4-6, 2006
STAP IV Panel Meeting Washington DC, USA October 16-19, 2006
STAP IV Panel Meeting Washington DC, USA February 26-28, 2007
STAP IV Panel Meeting Nairobi, Kenya April 9-12, 2008
STAP IV Panel Meeting Washington DC, USA September 15-17, 2008
STAP IV Panel Meeting Rome, Italy April 28-30, 2009
STAP IV Panel Meeting Washington DC, USA October 13, 2009
STAP IV Panel Meeting Rome, Italy March 8-10, 2010
STAP V Panel Meeting Washington DC, USA October 14-15, 2010
STAP V Panel Meeting Vienna, Austria March 17-18, 2011
STAP V Panel Meeting Washington DC, USA October 13 - 14, 2011
STAP V Panel Meeting London, England March 29 - 30, 2012
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Report to the Fourth GEF Assembly

[F]or GEF-4, STAP has undergone major structural reform in order to undertake its new strategic role in advising on the scientific content of all focal area strategies, a new operational role in screening all proposals for Full Size Projects, and a continuing advisory role in providing guidance and outputs on topics requested by GEF agencies. Additionally, STAP has been active in a number of GEF-funded targeted research projects on issues important to the agencies such as developing a carbon tracking tool for project managers.

May 2010


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Engineering a Transformational Shift to Low-Carbon Economies in the Developing World: The Role of the Global Environment Facility

AAASPanelsmall[T]he planet is warming at an alarming rate. For many small islands and coastal states even this level of warming will likely be devastating over the coming years. For more than 20 years, the GEF has played a major role in assisting developing countries and countries with economies in transition in transforming their markets towards a low-carbon future.

The event, which took place in the AAAS Auditorium in Washington, DC, was opened by Dr. Naoko Ishii, CEO Global Environment Facility and Conn Nugent, President of the Heinz Center. Dr. Thomas E. Lovejoy, Chair of the STAP and Biodiversity Chair – Heinz Center, moderated the panel discussion and directed questions from the audience.

To access a full press release, please click here.

Presentations by the speakers are available below.

Pavan Sukhdev - Yale University (visiting fellow), Former Head of UNEP’s Green Economy Initiative and author of Corporation 2020 | The Economics of Climate Change, A case for urgent action

Dr. Joseph Alcamo - UNEP Chief Scientist, Chair - Scientific Steering Committee for the UNEP Emissions Gap Report, 2012 | The Emissions Gap

Dr. Ralph Sims - Professor School of Engineering and Advanced Technology at Massey University, IPCC Member and STAP Panel Member on climate change mitigation | Transitioning to a Low-Carbon Future

Dr. Rosina Bierbaum - Professor Natural Resources and Environmental Policy (former Dean) at University of Michigan, Member of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), Member of the Federal Advisory Committee of the U.S. National Climate Assessment | Turn Down the Heat and Ramp Up Adaptation

Washington DC | 20 March 2013

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STAP Report to 45th Meeting of the GEF Council

[T]he chair of STAP -- Dr. Rosina Bierbaum gave her first presentation to the GEF Council at the 45th Meeting on Wednesday, November 6.

The report has the following highlights:

  • STAP Work Programme Activities and Products
  • Comments on the GEF 2020 Strategy
  • Science in the GEF
© Bowen Cao © Bowen Cao


To read the presentation, click here.

To read the detailed content, click here.

To find more information on this event, click here.

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Use of Bioindicators, Biomarkers and Analytical Methods for the Analysis of POP's in Developing Countries

[T]he GEF asked the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP) for a review of cost-effective and accurate methods available for determining the presence and levels of POPs in the environment in developing countries with special emphasis on the use of bioindicators and biomarkers.

May 2004


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Marine Spatial Planning in Practice Technical Meeting

STAP Report

6-8 May 2014, Cambridge, UK

[I]nformed by the results of a global online survey of Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) in practice, 27 experts from 17 countries gathered at UNEP’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Cambridge to consider the added value of MSP to existing management approaches to marine and coastal systems.  The Meeting forms part of a wider initiative of UNEP’s Division for Environmental Policy Implementation in collaboration with GEF-STAP, CBD Sec, GIZ, TNC and other partners. STAP participated in the Meeting to deliver its own commitments to the GEF regarding advice on MSP and this report represents STAP’s viewpoint only.

STAP considers the results of the Meeting to be directly relevant to implementation of the programming directions for GEF-6 particularly within multi-focal investments by Biodiversity, International Waters and Land Degradation focal areas. STAP also understands that the results of the Meeting will inform work of UNEP, Regional Seas Programmes and partners to enhance national and regional capacities for ecosystem-based management. Results of the Meeting will also be presented to the forthcoming 18th session of the CBD’s Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA), and later as a major contribution to the CBD Expert Workshop to Provide Consolidated Practical Guidance and a Toolkit for Marine Spatial Planning, to be held 9-11 September 2014.  In turn that Workshop will report to the CBD Conference of the Parties, which will consider the application of MSP.

MSP in Practice Participants

The number and scope of MSP initiatives are proliferating. While many early applications were directed at the conservation and restoration of ecosystems and their services, MSP is increasingly seen as a vehicle for maintaining wider ecosystem services and achieving sustainable Blue Growth – in many instances in the form of for example renewable energy production. The discussion on MSP for Blue Growth highlighted the need for better understanding of how specific markets function, resource availability and use, and mechanisms to encourage investment to sustain long term outcomes vis a vis environmental sustainability. Blue Growth is to be supported in the EU area through the recent adoption by the EU Parliament of the new Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning, to be coordinated with and complement existing environmental legislation and targets and EU implementation of MSP has, for example, been demonstrated jointly by Finland and Sweden under the Plan Bothnia delivered through HELCOM.  This case study was discussed at the Meeting as one of the possible models for learning and experience transfer.

As the field matures the initial emphasis on principles for planning needs to be complemented by greater attention to methods for assessing impacts and outcomes. A survey distributed before the Meeting therefore emphasized experience on making the often difficult transition from planning to the implementation of an MSP.  This transition requires a number of enabling conditions and capacities. For example, formal MSP governmental approval and awarding the needed authority and long-term resources for its implementation is likely to lead to successful outcomes. Useful intermediate outputs can be gained in the planning and early implementation, for example better understanding of varied sector needs and aspirations, which can support underpinning policy development or management processes.

A second theme of the Meeting was to better understand how the setting within which an MSP initiative is undertaken influences the enabling conditions for effective implementation.  Some of the enabling conditions that were discussed regarding what worked included conservation, resource use and development scenarios projected up to 10 years ahead driven by transparent feedback on preferred outcomes and based on good baseline data. Some of the challenges reported in the meeting were too short a planning period coupled to poor communication with stakeholders and between governance sectors, inadequate data and spatial scope, which may lead to failure. MSP outcomes considered useful to sustain positive stakeholder engagement included incentives such as agreements on access rights with clear zoning, backed by valuation, payments for ecosystem services and market advantages gained through certification of marine and coastal products.

Comparing notes on what worked: Chantalle Clarke (Belize) and Jorge Jimenez (Costa Rica) Comparing notes on what worked: Chantalle Clarke (Belize) and Jorge Jimenez (Costa Rica)

MSP covers a broad range of initiatives that all aim to sustain the use of resources and ecosystem services through careful planning of available coastal or ocean space, structured in scale and through time. It is therefore the counterpart to terrestrial land-use planning which, together with MSP, can inform “ridge to reef” or “source to sea” governance and management. However, a concern raised repeatedly during the Meeting is the proliferation of variants in the ecosystem approach to planning and management each with their distinct name and acronym.  Many participants noted that this confuses those working to apply integrated approaches that address both the environmental and the societal dimensions of ecosystem change. Steps should be taken to emphasize the similarities in these many variants and clarify what often minor differences in emphasis distinguish one from another.

Another topic of the Meeting discussions was how capacity building needs are shaped by the context and the scope and scale of an initiative. The survey revealed that the priority barriers to MSP implementation are governance issues, inadequate human capacity and accessing sustained funding that bridge from planning to implementation.  Discussions of barriers to implementation during the Meeting emphasized the criticality of engaging with stakeholders drawn from civil society, the relevant business interests and government in all phases of the planning process (planning, formalization, implementation, evaluation). It was noted repeatedly that stakeholder engagement in the planning phase leads to frustration and an erosion of trust if the conclusions reached are not reflected in the policies and actions subsequently adopted by government. This requires that those responsible for planning and negotiations among interested parties are clear as to the process by which final decisions on the content of an MSP will be made.

Blue Solutions' Ilona Porsche (GIZ) discussing knowledge transfer and capacity development Blue Solutions' Ilona Porsche (GIZ) discussing knowledge transfer and capacity development

Capacity needs are closely related to the setting in which an MSP initiative is undertaken and the scale and complexity of the issues to be addressed.  This suggests that further investments in capacity building should be directed at audiences selected with an eye to common issues and their related analytical and technical needs.  Adequately understanding the context within which an MSP initiative is undertaken and the associated capacity building needs reaffirmed the value of assembling a governance baseline as a feature of the initial design and planning process. Differences among contexts may also be highlighted by the development of a typology of contexts that highlights the differences between initiatives undertaken, for example, in settings where marine users are in poverty, the existing governance system is weak and ecosystem services are degraded in contrast to initiatives undertaken where human and environmental conditions are generally good and the governance system is more robust.

Governance discussion with Paul Gilliland (UK) and STAP's Stephen Olsen (USA) Governance discussion with Paul Gilliland (UK) and STAP's Stephen Olsen (USA)

Finally, there was an initial discussion of the need for simplifying frameworks that complement guidance on the processes of MSP with a sequence of outcomes that trace the evolution of effective MSP initiatives.  Such outcomes mark the completion of a successful planning process, proceed to document the changes in behavior associated with the implementation of an MSP that, when sustained, generates the societal and environmental conditions that signal the attainment of fundamental MSP goals. As the number of MSP initiatives increases it will be important to place a greater emphasis on methods and indicators for assessing the impacts and outcomes of MSP (social, economic, ecological) as the basis for assessing the effectiveness and efficiency of MSP practices.

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