The Global Environment Fund, administered by the UN and the World Bank, was set up 15 years ago following the Rio Earth Summit and backs projects around the world.

It is the world’s largest environmental funding body and, at a press conference in Cape Town on Monday, the chair of GEF said the extra cash from 32 governments couldn’t have come at a better time.

Monique Barbut, CEO and chair of the fund, said there was a growing fear that environmental and ecological red flags – loss of species and habitats, threats from changing climate, land degradation and desertification, pollution of shared waters, and health hazards posed by persistent organic pollutants – are increasing, and showing worrying signs of stress and severity.

“This strong show of support from the international donor community is remarkable, and signals firm commitment to protecting the global environment,” she said.

“We cannot be complacent, and time is not on our side. The global environment is facing unprecedented threats, and these funds have to be translated rapidly into projects, programs and policies that make a difference in developing countries.”

The extra funding will be received over four years and will replenish the GEF’s coffers to help it back critical environmental programs in developing countries, including small projects by NGOs and community-based organisations.

Over a year ago, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment warned that human activities are “putting such strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted.”

Similarly, the United Nations has warned that environmental degradation will hamper ongoing efforts by developing nations to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

“The GEF is a unique facility,” said Philippe Le Houerou, World Bank vice president for concessional finance and global partnerships.

“It allows the international community to come together and coordinate real solutions for the world’s major environmental concerns. At a time when global ecological challenges need strong multilateral action, this new funding for the GEF will go a long way to provide cohesive and sustainable programs.

“As its trustee, the World Bank looks forward to working with all GEF partners to implement the replenishment.”

The 32 donors are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Portugal, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, and United States.

Those countries which offered more cash than they did four years when the fund was last replenished came mainly from within Europe and included Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Japan, Korea, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Sam Bond

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