Environment Programme

The Environment Programme portfolio consists of 140 projects valued at $167.3 million as at 31 December 2005. The UN Foundation (UNF) and UNFIP grant making in the environment area, has focused primarily on two thematic priority areas, namely 1) Biodiversity; and 2) Sustainable Energy and Climate Change, each of which were guided from 1998-1005 by separate strategies that were originally developed in consultation with UN colleagues and outside experts.

Biodiversity Programme

The biodiversity programme starts with the premise that productive and healthy ecosystems and the species they support are fundamental to human well-being and survival. Indeed, ecosystem services constitute the very basis of life. At the same time it recognizes that these ecosystems and species are under unprecedented and escalating pressure from human activities and associated habitat loss. This is especially evident in light of the recent distressing findings of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the most comprehensive scientific assessment of the state of the world's ecosystems ever produced. (and an initiative for which the UN Foundation provided considerable financial support through UNEP).

At the heart of the assessment generated by 1,300 scientists from more than 90 countries is a stark warning, namely that: Human activity is putting such a strain on the natural functions of the earth that the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted. Among its findings, the report found that 60 percent of the services provided by the world's ecosystems that support human well being are significantly degraded.

The primary objective of the Biodiversity Programme Strategy (1998-2005) has been to assist developing countries to promote effective action for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity by targeting protected areas designated as World Heritage Sites to implement key objectives of the World Heritage Convention (UNESCO, 1972) and the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Many of these World Heritage sites, that include places like the Galapagos Islands, Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Kenya, the Cardamom Mountains in Cambodia, and Everglades here in the U.S. - are facing many of the same problems that are threatening biodiversity around the globe, including loss of habitat due to extractive industries, invasive or alien species, overexploitation of natural resources, and pollution. Since 1999, the UN Foundation has provided support through the UN system to over 40 projects valued at $75 million under the World Heritage Biodiversity Programme. Collectively, these initiatives are addressing critical conservation and development priorities at approximately 35-40 natural World Heritage sites in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The UNESCO World Heritage Center and UNDP, in particular, have developed several projects that have yielded tangible results.

An important secondary objective of the Biodiversity Programme is to support efforts to reverse the decline of coral reefs through targeted conservation and sustainable management activities. In the regard, UNF together with UNFIP made a significant commitment to a $15 million global program in this area called the International Coral Reef Action Network or ICRAN which we are supporting in partnership with UNEP and a number of leading NGOs and scientific institutions to improve the health of coral reefs around the world.

Select Biodiversity Project Profiles

The following section highlights a few projects the UN Foundation and UNFIP have supported under the Biodiversity Programme.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, one the most biodiversity rich countries in Africa, prolonged armed conflict and instability have wrought havoc on the countries natural World Heritage sites . UNF has supported a UNESCO project that is working with the national park service and NGOs to support vital field conservation operations, including the payment of salaries of 1,100 park rangers to enable them to protect the sites against heavily armed poachers and other threats.

In the Galapagos Islands, the Foundation has supported an initiative to support the control and eradication of select invasive or alien species that represent the principle threat to the Galapagos World Heritage site. The UNF funds are being used to develop new methodologies for prevention of new introductions and the eradication and control of select invasive species. The project has contributed to government efforts to strengthen quarantine and inspection systems and enhanced awareness among local communities of invasive species and control procedures.

The foundation has also supported efforts to establish Sustainable Tourism management plans at World Heritage sites in Central America and support the creation of ecotourism enterprises that generate income for local communities.

Recognizing that a large proportion of the worlds poor directly depend on healthy ecosytems for their livelihoods, we are working closely with UNDP biodiversity team and the Small Grants Programme of the Global Environment Facility to support and promote greater recognition of the critical role of community-based enterprises in promoting local economic development through conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity. Two such initiatives include:

  • The Equator Initiative - an innovative, partnership programme that is working to raise the international profile of exceptional community-based enterprises in tropical countries whose efforts are contributing to the reduction of poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

  • The Community Management of Protected Areas Conservation Programme - promoting community-based conservation initiatives on a landscape scale at six World Heritage sites around the world in Kenya, Tanzania, Mexico, Domica, Belize and the Philippines. To date, an impressive portfolio of over 160 community based projects have been supported that promote ecosytem conservation and environmental awareness while also addressing the alternative livelihood needs of local populations. The range of products and services provided by the community-based enterprises supported through the programme, include organic honey, certified timber, non-timber forest products, and ecotourism. The program has also promoted sustainable fisheries management, high value organic farming, water management strategies to restore watersheds, access to renewable energy to reduce pressure on forest resources.
As a final example, we are supporting the BioTrade Initiative, an UNCTAD Programme which assists small and medium enterprises in developing countries to promote trade in biodiversity based products and services. The product groups it supports are based on economic and social and environmental criteria and include: edible plant products like fruits and nuts, plant-based pharmaceutical and cosmetic ingredients. The programme provides practical trade promotion services, including assistance to enterprises in supporting market assessments, product development, quality improvement and certification and labeling.

Sustainable Energy and Climate Change Programme

The UNF/UNFIP Sustainable Energy and Climate Change Programme strategy (1998-2005) is guided by the Secretary-General's Millennium Report that states 'addressing the challenge of climate change is one of the most important tasks of the twenty-first century' and calls for the promotion of renewable energy and energy efficiency to address this important challenge. The goal of the programme strategy was to advance sustainable development and climate change mitigation through the promotion of renewable energy and energy efficiency markets.

Rationale and Context

The provision of affordable, modern energy services to the world's poor is essential to achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, promoting sustainable economic development, mitigating climate change, and enhancing energy security.

Promoting Energy Access - Approximately 2 billion people are without access to electricity and utilize traditional fuels (biomass and kerosene) for cooking and heating, leading to significant environmental and health impacts.

Mitigating Climate Change - Humanity is at a critical stage in its efforts to combat climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has concluded that the world's climate is changing and that human beings are largely responsible. The burning of fossil fuels (primarily coal, petroleum, and natural gas), which releases greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, is the primary culprit, together with deforestation. The expected repercussions of climate change - including rising sea waters, more frequent and intense storms, the extinction of species, worsening droughts and crop failures - will affect every nation on earth. Expanding the markets for renewable energy and energy efficiency are essential to reducing carbon emissions and thereby mitigate climate change.

Beyond the original Energy and Climate Change Programme strategy, UNF's work has evolved in recent years to include:

  • Promoting effective action on energy policy and climate change in the United States and Abroad.

Cross-cutting strategic priorities

  • Develop and promote innovative business models and financing mechanisms to leverage investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

  • Stimulate local enterprise development to support clean energy service delivery through public private partnerships

  • Promote enabling policies for sustainable energy development

  • Mitigate greenhouse gas emissions through the promotion and replication of sustainable energy systems as a substitute for fossil fuel combustion.

UNF/UNFIP Project Profiles - Renewable Energy

Rural Energy Enterprise Development (REED) - In many developing country markets, SME's are a promising means to deliver new clean energy technologies and services to populations currently without access to modern forms of energy supply. Though the REED program, UNF has been supporting UNEP and a diverse group of local and international partners to promote and strengthen small energy service enterprises that use clean, efficient and sustainable energy technologies to meet the energy needs of under-served populations in several African countries, Brazil and China. The REED 'enterprise centered' model offers sustainable energy entrepreneurs and existing companies a combination of enterprise development services and early stage financing.

Promoting Markets for Solar Water Heating in China - This UNDESA project aims to remove the barriers to widespread use of solar water heating technologies by developing model building designs, and working with municipal governments to enact standards and building codes for integrating solar water heaters into new residential buildings. The project is working closely with national and municipal governments, real estate developers, architectural design institutes, the construction industry and solar thermal industry and has been highly successful to date in facilitating the enactment new standards and residential building codes that will contribute significantly to the growth of the solar water heating technology market in China.

India Solar Loan Facility - One of the main barriers to the development of markets for clean energy is access to finance, including consumer credit. In response to this challenge, we are supporting a UNEP initiative, in partnership with the Shell Foundation and two major Indian banks (Syndicate and Canara), to accelerate the market for financing solar home systems in southern India. By providing an interest rate subsidy to lower the cost to customers of solar home system financing the project has been catalytic in assisting the Indian banks to establish credit facilities dedicated to providing loans to finance the purchase of solar home systems.

UNF/UNFIP Project Profiles - Energy Efficiency

Energy Efficiency Investment for Climate Change Mitigation - This project, implemented by the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), is intended to accelerate energy efficiency market formation activities for the greater participation of private sector investments, products and services in three key areas: municipal lighting, hospitals and district heating. It succeeded in establishing a new network of selected municipalities linked by advanced Internet communications with international partners for value added information transfers on policy reforms, financing and energy management. The project has promoted a self-sustaining investment environment for cost-effective energy efficiency projects advancing local city-scale participation in the objectives of UN FCCC and UN ECE environmental accords.

Collaborative Labeling and Appliance Standards (CLASP) Programme - The mission of the CLASP programme is to promote the appropriate use of energy efficiency standards and labels for appliances, equipment and lighting in developing countries. Participating countries, including China, India, Brazil, Ghana, and Poland, among others, benefited from enhanced institutional capacity for implementing standards and labeling programmes, increased production of energy efficient products by manufacturers, improved average annual energy efficiency of appliances and equipment, significant reductions in electricity consumption, and lower energy-related emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants.

Promoting Effective Action on Energy Policy and Climate Change

  • Energy Future Coalition (EFC) - a broad-based, non-partisan alliance that seeks to bridge the differences among business, labor, and environmental groups and identify energy policy options with broad political support to accelerate the transition to clean, safe, and sustainable energy technologies.

  • Institutional Investor Summit on Climate Risk - UNF and UNFIP have been working with Ceres, a U.S. NGO, UNEP and other partners, in a major initiative to focus investors, the financial community, and the corporate sector on climate risk. We have convened two highly successful Institutional Investor Summits on Climate Risk here at the United Nations, the first in November 2003 and the second in May 2005. These efforts seek to encourage corporations, under pressure from large institutional investors, to think of ways to reduce their exposure to climate change and invest in new, cleaner production options.

  • International Climate Change Task Force - UNF supported and participated in the International Climate Change Task Force, a group of high-level experts established to provide recommendations to the UK government for its leadership of the G-8 and EU processes this year. We have also supported a number of other climate policy and advocacy initiatives, including through the Pew Center on Global Climate Change and the Climate Group.