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The Global Environment Facility (GEF) at the Cities & Regions Pavilion

As a key partner of the Cities & Regions Pavilion – TAP2015, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) will host two sessions: “Innovative Finance for Urban Resilience” on Tuesday, 8 December from 16.00 to 17.00 in the Pavilion Agora, and “Sustainable Cities Integrated Approach Pilot: A City-based Approach” on Wednesday, 9 December from 11.15 to 12.45 in the Pavilion Agora.

These sessions will show how climate finance can most effectively reach cities and contribute to sustainability initiatives. They will show the tangible impact of the GEF’s work around the world and will present the ambitious programs that the GEF has developed to accelerate sustainability action through funding to local and subnational governments. In particular, the sessions will demonstrate the GEF’s commitment to cities as key agents of global sustainable development.

The GEF was established on the eve of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit to help tackle the most pressing environmental issues facing our planet. Since then, the GEF has provided US$14.5 billion in grants and mobilized US$75 billion in additional financing for almost 4,000 projects worldwide. The GEF has become an international partnership of 183 countries, international institutions, as well as civil society and private sector organizations, working together to address global environmental challenges.

Initially created as a World Bank pilot program, the GEF became a permanent, separate institution in 1994. As part of the restructuring, the GEF was made the financial mechanism for both the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. In partnership with the Montreal Protocol of the Vienna Convention on Ozone Layer Depleting Substances, the GEF began funding projects that enabled the Russian Federation and nations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia to phase out their use of ozone-destroying chemicals.

The GEF was subsequently selected to serve as financial mechanism for three additional international conventions: the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (2001), the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (2003) and the Minamata Convention on Mercury (2013).

The GEF first began investing in sustainable cities projects in 1999, allocating USD 25 million to improving the energy efficiency of district heating in Beijing, China and US$12 million to support hydrogen fuel cell buses in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Today, the GEF urban portfolio represents one of the largest sustainable cities programs in the world: 100 projects to mitigate climate change in over 120 cities across 63 countries, with US$580 million committed and an additional US$7.23 billion leveraged in co-financing.

The GEF has also invested in projects that strengthen urban resilience using a range of strategies, including specific zoning and building codes and flood management interventions such as the prohibition of building within known floodways.

The GEF has now launched three Integrated Approach Pilot (IAP) programs, which will promote a new and innovative way of tackling the major drivers of global environmental degradation. The programs – Fostering Sustainability and Resilience for Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa, Sustainable Cities and Taking Deforestation out of Commodity Supply Chains – will address challenges that are closely aligned with the targets and goals of the multilateral environmental agreements for which the GEF serves as a financial mechanism.

The Sustainable Cities Integrated Approach Pilot, launched in 2014, seeks to promote sustainable urban development through a city-based approach. The program recognizes that cities, working in collaboration with all stakeholders, are now on the front line in dealing with some of the most pressing environmental challenges and that, most often, cities hold the key to effective solutions. The GEF is committing US$100 million to this initiative, including global coordination support, resources from countries interested in utilizing GEF allocations for this effort and an incentive mechanism to match country allocations.

The Integrated Approach Pilots will be the main theme of the GEF’s second session on Wednesday 9 December. The session will engage urban practitioners, funding agencies and planning experts to discuss how a city-based approach can deliver adaptation and mitigation benefits at scale, along with multiple other environmental and development benefits at the national, regional and global level. At the Cities & Regions Pavilion, the GEF will show that it is dedicated to helping cities become more resilient and more sustainable through large-scale funding initiatives.

This blog post was developed by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability.