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“Implementation of the Global Biodiversity Framework Must Be Our Collective Focus”: Interview with the Global Environment Facility’s CEO and Chairperson, Carlos Manuel Rodríguez

Ahead of the 28th UN Climate Change Conference (COP 28) in the United Arab Emirates, Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, CEO and Chairperson at the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and a CCICED Council Member, shared his expectations on the flagship UN climate talks and keys for safeguarding the planet’s biodiversity – including the role of the Global Biodiversity Framework Fund (GBFF), launched at the GEF Assembly in August this year.

It’s now one year since the adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), billed as the international community’s landmark agreement on biodiversity. Where are we today on its implementation?

We have made record progress on the establishment and launch of the GBFF. This is in line with the GBF’s 19th target to increase financing from all sources to at least USD 200 billion per year by 2030. The GBFF is the first fund in the GEF’s family that is able to accept support from all sources, including the private sector, foundations, philanthropies, in addition to sovereign sources. We are on track to set up and operationalize the fund to safeguard the planet’s biodiversity.

At the same time, the global community is still far from being on track to achieve the 23 targets within the GBF. Implementation must be our collective focus. And this is not only about resources, but also the parties’ political will to develop the coherent policy frameworks that the GBF requires.

“The GBFF is the first fund in the GEF’s family that is able to accept support from all sources.”

What are the main challenges for GEF on mobilizing resources and operationalizing the GBFF?

I am proud of the timely progress we have made in establishing and launching the GBFF. The GEF Council agreed to the establishment of the fund in June 2023, followed by the ratification at the GEF Assembly in August 2023. We are in the process of establishing the GBFF trust fund with the World Bank as the trustee and are looking forward to the first GBFF Council meeting in February 2024.

The challenge now is to make sure all in the position to contribute to the fund will do so, and honor the commitments made when Parties adopted the GBF.

Beyond the GBFF, what are the key areas for GEF in its support for global environmental efforts in the coming years?

The GEF has the mandate, capacity, and expertise to deliver global environmental benefits via member countries. But we will need the ongoing and increased support of donor countries, and bold and strategic action of all parties, to meet ambitious global goals for 2030 and beyond.

Broadly speaking we need three things. One, resource mobilization. This will require mobilizing resources across public and private sources and to narrow the funding gap by aligning policy and action. Two, policy coherence. In other words, we need domestic policies that align with environmental sustainability and global goals, including the GBF and the Paris Agreement. And third, a whole-of-society approach to environmental governance and stewardship is critical. This includes action on the sub-national level and engagement with members of civil society, particularly indigenous peoples and local communities, women, and the youth.

The GEF is moving quickly to scale up operations to support these ambitions and to transform the drivers of nature loss and climate change, increase policy coherence, and support innovation.

Which particular issues within international environment would you like to see CCICED explore in the coming years?

I think CCICED is well positioned to make important insights and policy recommendations on four areas. To mobilize resources and close the nature and climate funding gap; to support policy coherence to align public and private investment and action to the GBF and the Paris Agreement; to identify opportunities to embrace this whole-of-society approach; and to identify opportunities to engage outside of national boundaries via south-south capacity collaboration.

China is an important player in the global environment. It’s a leader in innovation and technology policy approaches, as demonstrated by its advances in renewables and green hydrogen. It displays a willingness for ambitious policy reform, such as the establishment of a new national park system and the scaling of eco-compensation and ecosystem restoration. China’s potential for positive impact on global environmental ambitions is significant, given the sheer scale of its natural resources, economy, and human resources.

“CCICED is well positioned to mobilize resources and close the nature and climate funding gap; to help align investment and action to the GBF and the Paris Agreement; and to identify opportunities for south-south capacity collaboration.”

Which areas of cooperation between China and GEF do you think has particular potential? 

China is one of the GEF’s largest portfolios and an increasingly important donor country. We are proud of the progress in our cooperation and see that there is even more that we can do together as partners. China is an important partner in several of GEF’s integrated programs on transforming key systems – including efforts to transform global food systems and urban areas to be more sustainable. China’s continued engagement in south-south exchange through these integrated global platforms is invaluable. Also, China could share lessons learned from its efforts to increase policy coherence across ministries, institutions, and stakeholders with other developing countries.

I recently visited China and had discussions with key ministries. I also spent time in the field visiting communities that are involved in GEF projects. I was very struck by the scale of impact and results of GEF investments in China on a wide range of environmental issues. I believe that China’s experiences in GEF programming could be instrumental in helping other developing countries to increase impact and sustainability. There is a huge opportunity for the GEF and China to partner to gather these results and lessons and share the knowledge with developing countries.

GEF is described as a “family of funds” supporting developing countries on environmental challenges. What is the key to ensure collaboration, rather than competition, between the growing number of environmental financial mechanisms?

Collaboration among funds is very important. We are proud of our collaboration with the Green Climate Fund (GCF), spelled out in a road map including the GEF Council and GCF Board. Efforts are now made to enhance collaboration among all the major global climate funds, as we recognize that our role and impact can only be stronger if we work together and simplify access. I am quite optimistic that we can have comparable collaboration among the biodiversity funds, and I look forward to working with the Kunming Biodiversity Fund.

COP28 starts on November 30. What would constitute a positive COP in GEF’s view? 

We are in a state of global climate emergency. The Amazon is dry, and this summer smoke from wildfires in Canada reached Washington DC and beyond. October this year has seen unprecedented temperatures worldwide. If we are to move the needle, COP28 must first recognize this and take bold action to address the key causes. I see two areas where our climate action is most prominently failing to follow the warning from science.

The first one is the need to phase out fossil fuels, and completely overhaul the financial subsidies and public investments that continue to make their extraction so incredibly profitable. The second is the need to significantly speed up and scale up global efforts to cut deforestation, which has increased in 2022, for the first time in almost a decade. Nature itself provides a brilliant suite of climate solutions. Scientific evidence tells us that intact forests, wetlands, mangroves, and green corridors are powerful tools to mitigate and adapt to climate change impacts.

Anything short of bold commitments on fossil fuels phase out and cutting deforestation will fall short of what I would see as positive outcome from COP28.

Negotiations for an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution are ongoing, with the end of 2024 as deadline. How do you see this treaty fit into the emerging mosaic of multilateral initiatives dealing with the environmental crises? 

Plastic is everywhere, in our households, landfills, oceans, and with profound impact on ecosystems, biodiversity, and human health. Plastic pollution, and its lifecycle, is a cross-cutting global sustainability topic that touches on climate change, biodiversity, marine environment, hazardous chemicals, and human health. It has both local and transboundary impacts. One key topic of the negotiations is the means of implementation, and how to support this implementation. The GEF is attending as an observer and stands ready to provide any information on our role as financial mechanism for six other conventions.


The views expressed are those of the interviewee and not necessarily those of CCICED.

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