Press releases

Monday 17 Jun 2002

Substantial Backing for GEF Recipe for Success at World Summit on Sustainable Development

30 Years UNEP: Environment for Development: People, Planet Prosperity
30 Years UNEP: Environment for Development: People, Planet Prosperity

Stockholm/Nairobi, 17 June 2002 - A multibillion-dollar fund, which has proved itself an invaluable weapon in the fight against poverty and environmental degradation, should be swiftly and significantly replenished, the head of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) will urge today.

Klaus Toepfer, UNEP's Executive Director, will call on heads of state to make the replenishment of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) a top priority and a key, concrete, outcome of the World Summit on Sustainable Development. The summit is scheduled to commence on August 26 in Johannesburg, South Africa and comes after this month's G8 summit in Canada where the issue of re-vitalizing the GEF is likely to be discussed.

The GEF has, over the past 10 years, committed more than US$ 4 billion and mobilized some US$ 9 billion for more than 1,000 projects in 162 countries.

Successes include helping developing countries to cope with the impacts of global warming to ones that are assisting poorer nations to conserve wildlife, monitor and improve the health of international waters and overcome land degradation.

Mr Toepfer, speaking in Stockholm, Sweden, at the 30th anniversary celebrations of the conference that led to the creation of UNEP, will tell delegates that a well-funded GEF must be made a priority.

"The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) will be a crucial test of the world's ability and its enthusiasm for tackling the very pressing problems facing people and the planet today. In April, in Monterrey, Mexico, developed countries including countries in the European Union and the United States pledged to increase overseas development aid significantly, reversing years of decline," he will say.

"This is a real turnaround and a good start. Now these pledges need to be turned in concrete actions at Johannesburg in areas such as water, energy and biodiversity. This year we also have the replenishment of the GEF. This fund has proved its worth time and time again and the money, given to it by developed nations, has in the main been very well spent. There are several, funding options on the table. I would urge developed nations in the run up to WSSD to make serious financial commitments to the fund so that all countries, so that all delegates, leave Johannesburg satisfied that it has been a summit of implementation and not another summit of promises, another meeting of declarations. UNEP is not isolated in this. The overwhelming majority of nations believe only a substantial replenishment is an acceptable outcome," he told delegates.

Mr Toepfer said it was not just the United Nations that believed the GEF was an important funding mechanism for sustainable development. Recently 16 independent auditors concluded that the GEF was an innovative, unique and successfully run body.

He added that the GEF was also a unique partnership between UN organizations and the Bretton Woods institutions as represented by the World Bank Group.

Mr Toepfer was speaking in the wake of the final preparatory meeting for WSSD which was held in Bali, Indonesia. While some progress was achieved, in common with most delegates he conceded that far more needs to be done to ensure that the Johannesburg summit is a success.

"Out latest Global Environment Outlook, the work of over 1,000 scientists and experts around the globe, gives us the hard facts and tough choices that are needed to restore the health and natural wealth of this wonderful blue planet. Unless action is taken now we face, in 30 years time, the prospect of half the world's people living in water stressed areas, over 70 per cent of the Earth's surface impacted by roads, cities and other infrastructure developments and concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at 450 parts per million, on track for a doubling from pre-industrial levels by 2050," he said.

"But we do not need to look to the future to see how the unsustainable life-styles of the richer parts of the world, and the poverty of the poorer parts, are threatening the Earth's life support systems. Around a third of the world's fish stocks are in a degraded state as a result of over-fishing fueled by subsidies estimated at up to US$ 20 billion a year, around half the world's rivers are seriously depleted and polluted and some two billion hectares of soil, equal to an area the size of the United States and Mexico combined, is classed as degraded. Our motto is Environment for Development, for without the environment you can never have the kind of development that can last. If we are to break the current impasse we will have to balance the needs and aspirations of both developed and developing countries. The GEF, which is administered by a secretariat in Washington DC, is not a new funding arm but an established one. It has been agreed that it is now due for re-vitalization so it can continue its excellent work. Let's us now do this and give it the financial resources needed to carry on with its important activities," he said.

Note to Editors: The Global Environment Facility was established for a pilot phase in 1991 in the run up to the Rio Earth Summit of 1992. It has three implementing agencies. These are UNEP, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank. During its pilot phase the facility was given US$1.2 billion. It has had two replenishments of US$2.02 billion and US$ 2.75 billion and was re-structured in 1994. The third replenishment is due this year.

The GEF's key focus areas have been biodiversity, climate change, international waters, land degradation, the ozone layer and more recently issues like the phasing out Persistent Organic Pollutants. It is also the financial mechanism for, for example, the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.

For More Information Please Contact: Nick Nuttall, UNEP Head of Media, on Tel: 254 2 623084, Mobile: 254 733 632755, E-mail: nick.nuttall@unep.org or Robert Bisset,UNEP Media Liaison for Europe, on Tel: 33 -1 - 4437 7613, Mobile: 33 - 6 - 2272 5842, E-mail: robert.bisset@unep.fr

UNEP News Release: 2002/48

Monday 17 Jun 2002
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