Established in 1991, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) unites 182 countries — in partnership with international institutions, civil society organizations, and the private sector — in an effort to address global environmental issues. As the largest provider of funds for environmental initiatives, the GEF extends grants to developing countries and countries with economies in transition for projects related to biodiversity, climate change, chemicals, international waters, land degradation, and ozone-layer depletion. Since its establishment, the GEF has allocated USD 10 billion, supplemented by over USD 51 billion in co-financing, to more than 2,700 projects in 165 countries.
The start of UNIDO’s cooperation with the GEF dates back to the 1990s when the Organization acted as an Executing Agency of GEF projects implemented by the original GEF Agencies, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the World Bank, and related to climate change, chemicals, and international waters.
In 2000, the GEF Council granted UNIDO direct access to its resources for the preparation and implementation of projects related to persistent organic pollutants (POPs). As a result, UNIDO developed a strong project portfolio covering a wide range of activities, including national implementation plans, assessment capacity building, and best available technologies/best environmental practices programmes, to reduce or eliminate POPs emissions and wastes.
In 2006, the GEF Council acknowledged UNIDO’s comparative advantage in its capability to link issues related to energy efficiency, renewable energy, chemicals, international waters, and sustainable development within the context of industrial activities, and granted the Organization direct access to GEF Trust Fund resources for projects related to climate change, biodiversity, international waters, and ozone-layer depletion. This decision provided UNIDO with a unique opportunity to enhance the synergies and impact of its GEF project portfolio.
UNIDO, a unique partner of GEF
Its ability to create synergies between clean-energy endeavors, green industry and efforts to address environmental concerns has allowed UNIDO to secure a special position within the GEF partnership of international agencies.
To help developing countries and countries with economies in transition cope with environmental challenges and adjust to climate change, UNIDO assists industries in adopting cleaner, resource- and energy-efficient, and low-carbon patterns of production.
In this endeavor, the Organization focuses on two strategic areas: cleaner and more efficient use of resources and energy in industrial operations; and productive activities (particularly in rural areas) based on renewable sources of energy. Where industry is well established, UNIDO provides technical assistance that aims to make industrial sectors and enterprises more sustainable through efficiency upgrades, system optimization approaches, and improvements in energy and environmental management.
Capitalizing on its experience and comparative advantages as a specialized agency of the United Nations, UNIDO is playing a major role in the design and implementation of GEF projects related to climate change, environmentally hazardous chemicals, and international waters. The Organization supports over 90 countries in their efforts to achieve sustainable industrial development in conformity with the objectives expressed in the GEF mandate. It helps governments develop regulatory, institutional and financial mechanisms that promote a sustainable course in the use of resources in general and energy in particular, and helps industries and industrial enterprises to secure their viability by adopting sound technology solutions and best production practices.
In addition to the GEF-funded projects that are solely implemented by UNIDO, the Organization frequently carries out interventions in cooperation with other GEF agencies, including the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the World Bank.