Namibia Economist (Windhoek)

25 August 2006

Africa: Environmental Summit Focuses On Africa

Windhoek — President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa will on Monday officially open the third Global Environment Facility (GEF) general assembly, the first to be held in Africa, which will take place in Cape Town from August 28 to 30. According to the organisers, Enviromedia 2000, the summit has attracted 1200 delegates from all over the world including journalists, business executives, UN environment bodies, government ministers, NGOs and World Bank officials.

The GEF is an independent, multilateral financial organisation that provides financial assistance or grants to developing countries for projects that benefit the global environment and promote sustainable livelihoods in local communities. Key GEF focus areas are climate change, biodiversity, international waters, the ozone layer, land degradation and persistent organic pollutants. It supports global agreements to combat desertification. Monique Barbut, the newly-appointed CEO of the Washington-based GEF said this week, over the past 15 years, the facility has provided over US$6 billion in grants across the developing world, from Quito to Kuala Lumpur and Tashkent to South Africa's Cape Floral Kingdom.

"It is a record that the GEF and the nations which fund it should be justifiably and more publicly proud. For the grants - covering core issues from climate change to chemicals, and biodiversity to international waters - have catalysed US$20 billion in co-financing for more than 1 800 projects in 140 countries," said Barbut. "Indeed, the facility is the single biggest provider of grants for environment-related projects on the globe. It is therefore a key instrument in the delivery of the Millennium Development Goals and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD)."

There is hardly a crucial area in which the enabling hand of the GEF is not present. Take wind power and take India, one of the world's fastest growing economies with a sharply rising need for energy to lift millions out of poverty. GEF projects and partners have assisted in triggering a dramatic growth in turbine deployment and helped pave the way to a domestic manufacturing market. Wind and solar power maps, pin-pointing the greatest clean energy potential, have led to new, pro-renewable energy laws in Nicaragua. China is using the new maps to boost its wind power targets to 20GW by 2020.

GEF is also assisting in pioneering innovative market mechanisms so that the goods and services provided by nature are better valued - and thus more sustainable managed and conserved - and the custodians better recompensed. "We are delighted that the GEF summit will take place in South Africa, the country that so actively embraces the opportunities provided through the GEF. From mainstreaming biodiversity conservation in economically important grasslands and tackling stockpiles of obsolete chemicals, up to those promoting solar heaters in low-income households at Ivory Park, near Johannesburg, South Africa is a true and active partner," said Barbut.

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