On July 31, 2020, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) approved a $2 million grant for a new venture in partnership with the MAVA Foundation, the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).
The partnership aims to increase investment in restoring and maintaining nature-based infrastructure to help cities and countries adapt to the impacts of climate change, and thus boost their resilience.
“Nature is part of the fundamental infrastructure on which thriving societies and economies depend. Despite its regenerative capacity, natural infrastructure – like built infrastructure – needs maintenance and therefore investment,” said MAVA Foundation Director General Lynda Mansson
“This project will demonstrate that investing in maintaining and restoring our natural capital provides solutions to societal problems – above all to the adaptation to climate change. Most importantly, the training and capacity development offered will scale the project impact far beyond the concrete case examples,” she added.
The new global initiative, supported by the GEF-managed Special Climate Change Fund, will use financial modelling and climate change projections to establish the business case for investing in nature and make it easier for investors and government officials to assign a value to and consider nature-based solutions when making infrastructure spending decisions.
The project will equip decision-makers with comprehensive, system-wide valuations of natural assets, reflecting capital and operating costs as well as co-benefits from carbon sequestration, air purification, protection against water scarcity, and climate change adaptation, plus cost comparisons with grey infrastructure alternatives.
This is important as many decision-makers currently lack the tools to directly compare green or hybrid infrastructure solutions with alternatives, for instance when making decisions about flood control, food security, coastal protection, water conservation and wastewater treatment. Such infrastructure planning and spending decisions will be critically important in the coming years as countries plan their recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and work toward more ambitious climate change, biodiversity, and other goals and frameworks.
The Global Environment Facility was established on the eve of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit to help tackle our planet’s most pressing environmental problems. Since then, the GEF has provided more than $20 billion in grants and mobilized an additional $112 billion in co-financing for more than 4,800 projects in 170 countries. Through its Small Grants Programme, the GEF has provided support to nearly 24,000 civil society and community initiatives in 133 countries.
“We are proud to support this venture, which will address the critical evidence gap that investors and project developers currently face as they evaluate whether to invest in nature and nature-based infrastructure,” said GEF CEO and Chairperson Naoko Ishii. “Making this information more readily available will be a game changer for those making long-term decisions about infrastructure investments for economic recovery and development.”
The MAVA Foundation, a philanthropic organization working to conserve biodiversity for the benefit of people and nature, is partnering with the GEF and has pledged to provide $2 million in co-financing to scale up the impact of the project, which will be implemented by UNIDO and executed by IISD.
“Our aim for this project is to consider social, economic, and environmental factors to demonstrate the system-wide case for investing in large-scale nature-based solutions,” said IISD President and CEO Richard Florizone. “Natural ecosystems like forests, mangroves, wetlands, and grasslands provide a range of ‘services’ that can complement and even substitute for built infrastructure. The strong evidence base we build through this unique partnership will help all market participants confidently invest in nature.”
The project, which will use data from the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, will also include a public online database making information on the valuation and performance of nature-based infrastructure available to a wide variety of project partners and stakeholders.
“In line with UNIDO’s mandate to promote inclusive and sustainable industrial development, we actively cooperate with private sector entities to further environmental stewardship approaches. This project will allow us to quantify the positive impact of stewardship activities on ecosystems as well as to demonstrate the cost efficiency of nature-based infrastructure. It will also allow us to highlight the economic value of the positive externalities provided by nature-based infrastructure to our partners in governments and international finance institutions. Thus, the project will have a catalytic impact on UNIDO’s efforts to up-scale public-private partnerships on environmental stewardship as required for a transformational change in climate change adaptation,” said UNIDO Managing Director Stephan Sicars.
The new project is an example of the GEF’s ongoing commitment to help countries and partners make wise investment decisions related to nature-based solutions and climate resilience, and reflects the Special Climate Change Fund’s focus on supporting innovative and impactful adaptation solutions. It will also support the Global Commission on Adaptation’s call to scale up action on nature-based solutions for adaptation.
The Special Climate Change Fund was established in response to guidance from the Conference of the Parties (COP7) in Marrakech in 2001. The SCCF complements the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF), another GEF-managed trust fund focused on climate change adaptation. Unlike the LDCF, the SCCF is open to all vulnerable developing countries. In addition, it funds a wider range of activities related to climate change with a specific focus on innovation. To date the SCCF has a portfolio of more than $350 million supporting 85 projects globally.