Global Environment Facility


Organization Profile:

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is a family of funds dedicated to confronting biodiversity loss, climate change, pollution, and strains on land and ocean health. Its grants, blended financing, and policy support help developing countries address their biggest environmental priorities and adhere to international environmental conventions. 

The GEF unites 184 countries — in partnership with international institutions, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and the private sector. As an independent financial organization, the GEF provides grants to developing countries and countries with economies in transition for projects related to biodiversity, climate change mitigation and adaptation, land degradation, international waters, the ozone layer, and persistent organic pollutants. These projects benefit the global environment and promote sustainable livelihoods. GEF Agencies are the operational arm of the GEF. They work closely with project proponents — government agencies, civil society organizations and other stakeholders — to design, develop and implement GEF-funded projects and programs. 

Over the past three decades, the GEF has provided more than $22 billion and mobilized $120 billion in co-financing for more than 5,000 national and regional projects. On June 21, 2022, twenty-nine donor governments finalized $5.33 billion in pledges to the Global Environment Facility for the next four years, an increase of more than 30 percent from its last operating period and a surge of support for international efforts to meet nature and climate targets.The record funding will support large-scale initiatives to address biodiversity and forest loss, improve ocean health, combat pollution, and reduce the effects of climate change within the decade. It reflects a growing consensus on the need to expand efforts in these areas and to work across borders and sectors. Much of the funding will be delivered through a set of 11 integrated programs (IPs) that address multiple environmental threats at once. 

Forests are often the focus of complex social structures and interaction, where an integrated approach can provide multiple benefits. As a result, many GEF projects, even when forests are not the only focus, contribute to the GEF’s forests portfolio through a landscape-based approach. The GEF offers support for a wide range of SFM tools such as:

  • protected area establishment and management;
  • integrated landscapes planning and management;
  • forest restoration;
  • certification of timber and non-timber forest products;
  • payment for ecosystem services schemes;
  • financial mechanisms related to carbon;
  • development and testing of policy frameworks to slow the drivers of undesirable land-use change; and
  • work with local communities to develop alternative livelihoods to reduce pressure on forests.

The GEF-8 Amazon, Congo and Critical Forest Biomes Integrated Programme invests in the conservation and effective governance of critical forest biomes that sustain the health of the planet and flow of vital ecosystem services that underpin human well-being. The program will focus specifically on the Amazon and Congo Basin but also target other biologically important regions such as Indo-Malaya, Meso-America, and Western Africa where forest conservation will generate significant benefits for global biodiversity, climate, and people.

The GEF is also addressing global tropical deforestation through the Food Systems Integrated Program. The program supports the needed transformation toward sustainable production systems for food commodities and staple crops, which in return provides a wide range of environmental benefits including improved land management, biodiversity conservation, landscape restoration, and greenhouse gas emission mitigation.

Financial contributions by donor countries are provided via several trust funds administered by the World Bank acting as the GEF Trustee and serviced by a functionally independent Secretariat housed at the World Bank. The Trustee helps mobilize GEF resources through a replenishment process every four years; transfers funds to GEF Agencies; and prepares financial reports on investments and use of resources. The GEF Secretariat has provided secretariat services for the Adaptation Fund since its inception; and the World Bank has served as Trustee.

The GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP) provides financial and technical support to local civil society and community-based organizations to develop and implement innovative local actions that address global environmental issues, while also improving livelihoods and reducing poverty.

As a member of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF), the GEF participates in major global forest-related meetings and is an active partner in the global forest policy dialogue, notably under the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF).

Financing Instrument: Grant and Non-Grant (Equity, Loans, Guarantees)

Project Scale:

The GEF provides funding through four modalities: full-sized projects, medium-sized projects, enabling activities, and programmatic approaches. The selected modality should be the one that best supports the project objectives. Each modality requires completion of a different template.

  • Full-sized Project (FSP): GEF project financing of more than two million US dollars.
  • Medium-sized Project (MSP): GEF project financing of less than or equivalent to two million US dollars.
  • Enabling Activity (EA): A project for the preparation of a plan, strategy, or report to fulfill commitments under a convention.
  • Program: A longer-term and strategic arrangement of individual yet interlinked projects that aim at achieving large-scale impacts on the global environment.

The Small Grants Programme funds grants up to $50,000. In practice, the average grant has been around $25,000. In addition, SGP provides a maximum of $150,000 for strategic projects.

Recipient countries regions/country groups: Developing countries and countries with economies in transition are recipients of GEF support. Through the projects they undertake, these countries achieve global environmental benefits and fulfill their commitments under the main environmental conventions as well as in the field of international waters. Each country is represented at the GEF Council through its Council members and alternates and manages its GEF portfolio and relationship with the GEF Secretariat through the focal points.

Recipient categories: GEF support is provided to government agencies, civil society organizations, private sector companies, and research institutions, among the broad diversity of potential partners, to implement projects and programs in recipient countries.

Eligibility Criteria:

GEF funds are available to developing countries and countries with economies in transition to meet the objectives of the international environmental conventions and agreements. All projects or programs must fulfill the following criteria to be eligible for GEF funding:

  • Eligible country: Countries may be eligible for GEF funding in one of two ways: a) if the country has ratified the conventions the GEF serves and conforms with the eligibility criteria decided by the Conference of the Parties of each convention; or b) if the country is eligible to receive World Bank (IBRD and/or IDA) financing or if it is an eligible recipient of UNDP technical assistance through its target for resource assignments from the core (specifically TRAC-1 and/or TRAC-2). 
  • National priority: The project must be driven by the country (rather than by an external partner) and be consistent with national priorities that support sustainable development.
  • GEF priorities: To achieve the objectives of multilateral environmental agreements, it is required that the GEF support country priorities that are ultimately aimed at tackling the drivers of environmental degradation in an integrated fashion. For this reason, the focal areas (Biodiversity, Climate Change, Land Degradation, International Waters, and Chemicals and Waste) remain the central organizing feature in the GEF-8 Programming Directions and provide countries with the opportunity to participate in selected “Integrated Programs” which aim to address major drivers of environmental degradation and/or deliver multiple benefits that fall under the GEF’s mandate (for more details, see the GEF-8 Programming Directions).
  • 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 Stakeholder Engagement and the respective guidelines.

Application guidelines:

The Operational Focal Point coordinates all GEF-related activities within a country. The OFP reviews project ideas, checks against eligibility criteria, and ensures that new project ideas will not duplicate an existing project. Any project to be submitted for approval requires a Letter of Endorsement signed by the GEF OFP.

The following project cycle applies to full-sized projects:

  1. GEF Council Approval of Work Program: The project proposer in a recipient country agrees on the Project Identification Form (PIF) with the country Operational Focal Point (OFP) and the GEF Agency and seeks the endorsement by the country’s OFP. Once both the PIF and the endorsement letter by the OFP are completed, they can be formally submitted to the Secretariat through the GEF Agency. There are no deadlines for submissions, since PIFs are received on a rolling basis. The Secretariat reviews the PIF, and if approved, it is included in the Work Program for Council approval (twice a year). 
  2. Endorsement of a Project by the CEO: Since the PIF provides the overall outline of the proposal, a more detailed project document is required. Thus, after a PIF is approved by the Council, the project proponent and the Agency have a maximum of 18 months to prepare the project document for CEO Endorsement.
  3. Approval of a Project by the GEF Agency: After a project is endorsed by the CEO, and using the same project document, the GEF Agency follows its own internal procedures to approve the project and start project implementation.
  4. Project Completion and Terminal Evaluation: The GEF Agency is responsible for the completion, terminal evaluation and financial closure of the project

Medium-sized projects can be approved through an expedited one-step approval process if they do not require project preparation grants. Otherwise, the two-step approval process involves:

  1. GEF Council Agreement of Work Program
  2. Approval of Projects under the Agreed Program

Last update: 21 August 2023

Publication Date
Monday, 20 April 2020
Applicable location
Biodiversity conservation
Forest conservation and management
Climate change
Forest landscape restoration
Financing opportunities