Global Environment Facility (GEF)

Global Environment Facility (GEF)


The Global Environment Facility (GEF) was established on the eve of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit to assist in the protection of the global environment and to promote environmentally sustainable development. The Fund supports the implementation of several multilateral environmental agreements, and serves as a financial mechanism of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement. It is the longest standing dedicated public climate change fund. The GEF also administers several funds established under the UNFCCC including the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) and the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF).

Basic Description

Name of the Fund Global Environment Facility (GEF)
Official Fund Website
Date Created
Date fund proposed: 1991
Date fund made operational: 1992
Proposed Life of Fund Indefinite.

The financial contributions to the GEF are replenished every four years. The Fund is currently in its 7th replenishment cycle, GEF-7: 2018 – 2022

The GEF Replenishment Cycles prior to GEF-7 are:

  • Pilot Phase: 1991-1994
  • GEF-1: 1994-1998
  • GEF-2: 1998-2002
  • GEF-3: 2002-2006
  • GEF-4: 2006-2010
  • GEF-5: 2010-2014
  • GEF-6: 2014-2018
Objectives The overall objective is to secure a larger-scale and a more sustained impact on the global environment through partnership between the countries and other partners including NGOs, the scientific community and the private sector. Climate change with a focus on mitigation is one of several focal areas in the GEF. More specifically, the GEF’s climate change mitigation strategy “supports developing countries as they make transformation shifts towards low emission development pathways with three fundamental objectives:

  • Promotion innovation and technology transfer for sustainable energy breakthroughs;
  • Demonstrating mitigation options with systemic impacts, by strengthening interaction and integration between climate change mitigation and the other GEF focal areas;
  • Mainstreaming mitigation concerns into sustainable development strategies through the continuous support of enable conditions in developing countries”.

The GEF funds adaptation not under its climate change focal area, but under two specialised trust funds created by the UNFCCC. More detailed information regarding the GEF’s climate change adaptation funding approach is available under CFU fund description pages for the Least Developed Countries Fund and the Special Climate Change Fund. Some adaptation funding for local communities and local initiatives is also provided under the GEF’s flagship Small Grants Programme (SGP).

Financial inputs and fund size The cumulative pledges to GEF-7 amount to USD 4.1 billion. However, the resource allocation framework distributes this funding among the five identified GEF focal areas, including the Climate Change Focal Area. The share of GEF-7 with a focus on climate change activities is approximately USD 802 million.

The contributing countries are: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Portugal, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom and United States.

Financial inputs into the GEF Trust Fund are fully eligible to be labelled as official development assistance (ODA).

Activities Supported The GEF Trust Fund supports a wide variety of mitigation strategies. Its main area of activities is the production and consumption of energy as it is the single largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. GEF investments are geared to mitigate these emissions through specific projects including:

  • Energy efficiency: introducing standards for consumer appliances and equipment, such as lighting, air conditioners and motors, and stronger building codes
  • Renewable energy: commercialising and scaling technologies like solar, wind, small hydro, biopower and geothermal energy
  • Policy: introducing feed-in tariffs, reverse auctions and other market-based mechanisms and financial instruments to speed up investments in clean energy.

Administrating Organization

Secretariat or Administrative Unit The GEF Secretariat is based in Washington D.C. and is led by a Chief Executive Officer (CEO)-Chairperson, who is appointed for a four-year term by the GEF Council. The Secretariat has a staff of approximately 75 professionals and is divided into three administrative units: the Programmes Unit, the Policy, Partnerships, and Operations Unit and the Front Office (

The Secretariat’s responsibilities include:

  1. Coordinating and overseeing programmes
  2. Ensuring that policies are implemented in consultation with the GEF Agencies
  3. Chairing interagency group meetings to ensure effective collaboration among the GEF agencies
  4. Coordinating with Secretariats of the five conventions, which the GEF serves as part of their financial mechanism (Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), and Minamata Convention on Mercury).

The Secretariat reports directly to the GEF Assembly and Council.

Trustee The World Bank is the permanent trustee.

Fund Finance and Access Modalities

Conditions and Eligibility Requirements Countries are eligible for GEF funding in Climate Change if

  1. the country has ratified the UNFCCC and conforms with the eligibility criteria decided by the Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC
  2. or if the country is already eligible to receive World Bank funds or is a recipient of technical assistance from the UNDP.

Access to the Fund is not stated as being restricted to ODA eligible countries.

Accessing the Fund
Access Modalities – To be eligible, all projects and programmes must fulfil the following criteria:

  • National priority: the project must be driven by the country and be consistent with national priorities that support sustainable development.
  • GEF priorities: the project has to address one or more GEF focal areas (e.g. biodiversity, international waters, land degradation, chemicals and waste, and climate change).
  • Financing: the project must seek GEF financing only for the agreed incremental costs on measures to achieve global environmental benefits.
  • Participation: the project must involve the public in project design and implementation, following the Policy on Public Involvement in GEF-Financed Projects and the respective guidelines.

The GEF provides funding through four modalities with different proposal submittal and approval processes:

  • Full-sized Project (FSP): GEF Project Financing of more than USD 2 million
  • Medium-sized Project (MSP): GEF Project Financing of less than USD 2 million
  • Enabling Activity (EA): Project for the preparation of a plan, strategy, or report to fulfil commitments under a Convention
  • Programme: longer-term and strategic arrangement of individual yet interlinked projects that aim at achieving large-scale impacts on the global environment.

The GEF Project and Programme Cycle Policy sets out the rules governing the cycles for GEF- financed projects and programmes and gives details regarding the different proposal submittal and approval process for each modality.

Regarding the access to the fund, the GEF works with Partners Agencies (GEF Implementing Agencies). These agencies are the only institutions that can access GEF funding directly. However, countries can access funding directly for some enable activities such as completing Biennial Update Reports and National Communications.

Financial Instruments – Grants, concessional loans, equity and guarantees.
Accreditation process – Initially, only UN agencies and multilateral development banks were accredited as GEF Partner Agencies. As part of an effort to broaden the number of GEF implementation partners, 2011 a pilot programme to accredit “up to ten” new agencies was launched. Applicant entities were reviewed in a three-stage process with an independent GEF Accreditation Panel assessing whether they meet the GEF’s fiduciary standards, as well as the GEF’s environmental and social safeguards, including on gender mainstreaming. Of the initial applicants, eight have successfully completed the accreditation process and been added as fully-accredited GEF Partner Agencies. A recent review of the accreditation approach of the GEF confirmed that no further GEF Partner Agency expansion is planned for the foreseeable future.
Overview of implementing entities – GEF Implementing Agencies are in charge of creating project proposals and then managing these projects on the ground. There are currently 18 GEF Agencies including UN agencies, multilateral development banks, international financial institutions, and NGOs. The list of actual GEF Agencies is available at:
Nature of recipient country involvement – The project must be driven by the country and be consistent with national priorities that support sustainable development to be considered eligible by the GEF. A project has to be endorsed by the country or countries where it will be implemented to be considered to receive GEF funding.

In addition, all GEF projects and programmes have a GEF Operational Focal Point (OFP) and a GEF Focal Point which work as liaison agencies.

  • The GEF Operational Focal Point (OFP) is “designated by each country that receives GEF funding, and is responsible for operational aspects GEF activities such as, endorsing project proposals to affirm that they are consistent with national plans and priorities and facilitating GEF coordination, integration, and consultation at the country level”. OFP support is officially documented in a Letter of Endorsement (LOE), which is required before project/programme funding proposals for PIF submission.
  • The GEF Focal Points (Country Representatives) are “government officials, designated by member countries, responsible for GEF activities and to ensure that GEF projects are country-driven and based on national priorities.

The complete list of current GEF Focal Points is available at:

Allocation criteria – The System for Transparent Allocation of Resources (STAR) determines the amount of GEF resources that a given country can access in a replenishment period, distributed over the different focal areas of the GCF. Regarding allocations under the GEF Climate Change Focal Area, the minimum allocation floors for GEF-7 are USD 1 million for Non-LDCs and USD 1.5 million for LDCs. See Table 2 of this document for the initial STAR country allocations for all countries that receive an allocation under GEF-7.
Safeguards, Gender and Indigenous Peoples
Safeguards – The GEF Policy on Environmental and Social Safeguards applies to all GEF-financed projects and programmes. The Policy sets out “mandatory requirements for identifying and addressing Environmental and Social Risks and Impacts in GEF-financed projects and programmes; and for documenting, monitoring and reporting on associated measures throughout the project and programme cycles, and at the portfolio level.” Agencies need to demonstrate that they have in place the necessary policies, procedures, systems and capabilities to meet the minimum standards 1 to 9:

  1. Environmental and social assessment, management and monitoring
  2. Accountability, grievance and conflict resolution
  3. Biodiversity conservation and the sustainable management of living natural resources
  4. Restrictions on land use and involuntary resettlement
  5. Indigenous Peoples
  6. Cultural heritage
  7. Resource efficiency and pollution prevention
  8. Labour and working conditions
  9. Community health, safety and security.
Gender – All projects are subject to the GEF Policy on Gender Equality. The objective of the Policy is to expose the “guiding principles and mandatory requirements for Mainstreaming Gender across the GEF’s governance and operations with a view to promoting Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and Girls in support of the GEF’s mandate to achieve global environmental benefits”. The Policy sets outs mandatory requirements in four areas:

  1. Project and programme cycle
  2. Monitoring, learning and capacity development
  3. Agency policies, procedures and capabilities
  4. Compliance.
Indigenous Peoples – GEF requires its participants to respect the principles set out in GEF Policy on Environmental and Social Safeguards Standard 5, namely that they have the informed, free and formal consent of affected Indigenous Peoples when a project may cause reverse impacts on land, natural resources, an Indigenous People’s Cultural Heritage or cause relocation of Indigenous Peoples. In addition, participants need to demonstrate that they have in place the necessary policies, procedures, systems and capabilities to ensure that Indigenous Peoples can have access to mitigation and compensation when adverse impacts are unavoidable, and that grievance and conflict resolution systems are appropriately established. Furthermore, GEF Principles and Guidelines for Engagement with Indigenous Peoples provides the guidelines to operationalise GEF policies and enhance “GEF’s effectiveness and ensuring protection of rights and long-term benefits for Indigenous Peoples”.

A comprehensive overview of GEF Strategy related to Indigenous Peoples can be found at:

Fund Governance

Decision Making Structure The GEF governance structure is composed of the Assembly, the Council, 18 Agencies and a Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel.

The Assembly is composed of all 184-member countries or Participants. It is responsible for reviewing general policies, reviewing and evaluating the GEF’s operation based on reports submitted to Council, reviewing the membership of the Facility and considering amendments to the Instrument for the Establishment of the Restructured Global Environment Facility.

The GEF Council is the governing body for the GEF. The Council is comprised of 14 members from donor constituencies and 18 from recipient constituencies (a total of 32 GEF members) and makes decisions by consensus. The Council adopts and evaluates the operational policies and programmes, and reviews / approves the projects submitted for approval. The list of Council Members and Alternates can be found at:

The GEF Agencies work with project proponents to design, develop and implement GEF projects and programmes. The list of GEF Agencies is available at:

Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP)
The STAP provides scientific and technical advice on policies, operational strategies, programmes and projects. It is composed by six internationally recognised experts who are supported by a global network of experts and institutions.

Accountability Mechanisms GEF Implementing Agencies are responsible for project implementation and are accountable to the GEF Council.

In accordance with accountability systems of the GEF Implementing Agency and the GEF Monitoring and Evaluation Policy, the Agencies have to conduct project-level monitoring and evaluation activities. Mid-term reviews need to be submitted to the GEF Secretariat whereas the projects terminal evaluation reports are submitted to the GEF Independent Evaluation Office.

Independent Evaluation Office
The Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) evaluates the impacts and effectiveness of GEF projects/programmes. This office is headed by a Director responsible for coordinating a team of specialised evaluators. The Director is appointed by and reports directly to the Council. Further information can be found on the GEF IEO website.

Complaints Procedures
Individuals and communities have the possibility to submit a complaint to a local or country-level dispute resolution system, a GEF Partner Agency or the GEF Resolution Commissioner if they feel concerned about a GEF-financed project or operation. The elements of the GEF conflict resolution system are set out in GEF Policy on Environmental and Social Safeguards Standard 2, Grievance and Accountability Mechanism.

Participation of Observers and Stakeholders GEF presents itself as a country driven organisation that was “founded on the principles of collaboration and partnership”. Member countries are referred as Participants that are represented on the GEF Council by 32 Constituencies each one having a Council Member and an Alternate Council member.

In 2017, the Council approved an updated Policy on Stakeholder Engagement which sets out “the core principles and mandatory requirements for GEF agencies to meaningfully engage stakeholders in GEF programmes and projects to build on a broad base of local knowledge and expertise, and foster local engagement and ownership in support for positive global environment outcomes”. The Policy presents mandatory requirements for stakeholder engagement throughout the GEF project cycle.

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) are considered key partners for identifying, executing and monitoring GEF programmes and projects. GEF encourages civil society stakeholders to comment on project proposals, comment on policies, support and monitor project implementation, participate in GEF events. In addition, sponsored CSOs can attend the Council Meetings to relay the voices of CSOs from the field and maintain engagement on policy issues. Sponsored CSOs are selected in consultation with the CSO network, Operational Focal Points, the Indigenous Peoples Advisory Group and the GEF Small Grants Programme.

Indigenous Peoples have their own Advisory Group. This group was established in 2012 to enhance coordination between the GEF and Indigenous Peoples. The Group’s objective is to provide “advice to the GEF Indigenous Peoples Focal Point on the operationalization and reviewing of the Principles and Guidelines for Engagement with Indigenous Peoples and to provide guidance on financing options for Indigenous Peoples”.

Transparency and Information Disclosure The GEF Policy on Access to Information sets out the principals and mandatory requirements for the public accessibility of Council Information, thereby contributing to the transparent governance of the GEF.

The Financial Status Report contains the information on the progress of donor contributions and is available with other Council documents (GEF Council Meetings, Assembly Meetings, Replenishments) at:

Details about individual GEF projects are included in the GEF project listing tool

Other Issues Raised