30 Countries Pledge Record Amount to Prevent Global Environmental Degradation
Thirty donor countries today pledged US$4.43 billion for the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to support developing countries' efforts over the next four years to prevent degradation of the global environment.
"Today's decision is a powerful signal from the global community about the importance of urgently reversing the negative environmental trends in order to ensure a sustainable future for everybody," said Naoko Ishii, CEO and chairperson of the GEF. "I am extremely encouraged by the broad coalition that has come together behind the belief in GEF's ability to play a critical role in helping achieve this transformation."
From Left: Bruno Oberle, Swiss State Secretary of the Environment, Naoko Ishii, CEO & Chairperson of the GEF, and Joachim von Amsberg, Vice President for Concessional Finance and Global Partnerships in the World Bank Group
The funding will support projects in more than 140 countries to tackle a broad range of threats to the global environment, including climate change, deforestation, land degradation, extinction of species, toxic chemicals and waste, and threats to oceans and freshwater resources. The GEF is the main global mechanism to support developing countries' to take action to fulfill their commitments under the world's major multilateral environmental agreements. In GEF-6, donors agreed to new financing in support of the Minamata convention on mercury that was signed in 2013, bringing to five the total number global environmental conventions that the GEF serves.
"The Global Environment Facility has gained the confidence of development partners for its strong track record in protecting the global environment and for its sound management of development partner funds," said Joachim von Amsberg, vice president for concessional finance and global partnerships in the World Bank Group, which serves as trustee for the GEF. "The environmental challenges the global community faces are significant, and funding for the GEF-6 program will help put us on a path toward our shared goal of sustainable development."
Donors emphasized GEF's role in supporting innovative and integrated solutions for the global environment. Among a number of innovations contained in GEF-6 is a new Integrated Approaches Pilot aimed at addressing environmental challenges by focusing on some of the underlying drivers of environmental degradation through special focus on, for example, food security in Africa, sustainable city development, and removal of deforestation from the global commodity supply chains—all issues that can only effectively be addressed if broad coalitions of stakeholders across countries and sectors can be brought together around a common action agenda.
Mexico's Secretary of Finance and Public Credit Luis Videgaray, who will host an assembly of the GEF's 183 members in Cancun, Mexico, in May said, "Only by integrating environmental considerations into decision making by governments, private businesses and households can we hope to make a difference in the global environment. The GEF-6 effort gets under way at a critical time, and is a vital platform to help mobilize all stakeholders to play their part."
Plenary session during the fourth meeting of the Sixth Replenishment of the Global Environment Facility
The GEF-6 program envisions devoting an increased share of resources to lower-income recipient countries. GEF will also further its engagement with the private sector, its work in gender mainstreaming, collaboration with civil society organizations, and increased focus on results and on leveraging other sources of funding for the benefit of the global environment by seeking higher levels of co-financing of its projects.
Underpinning efforts, the GEF is developing a longer-term strategy, GEF2020, which aims to enhance the GEF's impact by focusing its interventions more on the underlying drivers of environmental degradation.
Doris Leuthard, head of the Swiss Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications, which hosted the meeting in Geneva, said, "We have better scientific evidence that human activity can lead to tipping points with a risk of irreversible and abrupt environmental change. By focusing on the drivers of environmental change and by seeking multiple benefits, the GEF is taking the right approach to turn around the worrying trends in the global environment."
Global Environment Facility is a Connect4Climate founding partner.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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