International Environment: Information on Global Environment Facility's Funding and Projects

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-06-15.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                  United States General Accounting Office

GAO               Report to the Honorable
                  Larry E. Craig, U.S. Senate

June 1999
                  Information on Global
                  Environment Facility’s
                  Funding and Projects

                   United States
GAO                General Accounting Office
                   Washington, D.C. 20548

                   Resources, Community, and
                   Economic Development Division


                   June 15, 1999

                   The Honorable Larry E. Craig
                   United States Senate

                   Dear Senator Craig:

                   In recent years, an increasing recognition of the global nature of
                   environmental problems has led to a greater emphasis on international
                   efforts to address them. In 1991, the Global Environment Facility was
                   established to help address climate change; threats to biodiversity, such as
                   the impact of development on fragile ecosystems; and other environmental
                   problems. The Facility is funded by the United States and other countries
                   and provides funds for projects in developing nations to help protect the
                   global environment. Because of your interest in the Facility, you asked
                   that we provide information on its funding and activities. Specifically, you
                   asked that we determine (1) the amount and the sources of its funding
                   commitments for fiscal years 1995 through 1998; (2) how it selected
                   projects for funding; (3) how it allocated funds among major priorities and
                   how funds for climate-change projects were allocated by purpose and
                   country for fiscal years 1995 through 1998; and (4) what oversight and
                   evaluation mechanisms it has established, and what, if any, findings have
                   resulted from its evaluations and reviews.

                   From fiscal years 1995 through 1998, 35 nations committed to contribute,
Results in Brief   or pledged, a total of about $2 billion to the Global Environment Facility
                   trust fund. The United States and two other nations accounted for the
                   majority of these pledges. Specifically, the Unites States pledged
                   $430 million (21 percent); followed by Japan, which pledged $415 million
                   (20 percent); and Germany, which pledged $240 million (12 percent). In
                   1998, the United States pledged to contribute an additional $430 million for
                   fiscal years 1999 through 2002.

                   Projects are selected through a multistage review and approval process,
                   which includes technical, environmental, and other considerations.
                   Nations and other applicants submit project concepts, which are
                   developed into detailed project proposals if they meet the Facility’s
                   eligibility criteria. These criteria require, among other things, that a project
                   be from a developing country and that funds from the Facility be used only
                   for new activities. The project proposals are then reviewed for technical
                   appropriateness, financial feasibility, environmental benefits, and other

                   Page 1                                  GAO/RCED-99-149 International Environment

                 considerations that reflect the Facility’s policy goals. During these
                 reviews, representatives of contributing nations and Facility-appointed
                 scientific and technical specialists review and comment on the proposals.
                 According to U.S. Treasury officials, the Facility ultimately selects projects
                 through negotiations and consensus.

                 The Facility allocated a total of $1.2 billion to projects for fiscal years 1995
                 through 1998. These funds went to projects in its four priority areas:

             •   $488 million (41 percent) to climate-change projects,
             •   $435 million (36 percent) to biodiversity projects,
             •   $116 million (10 percent) to international waters projects, and
             •   $109 million (9 percent) to ozone depletion projects.

                 The remaining $44 million (4 percent) went to projects addressing two or
                 more of these priority areas. The majority of the funds for climate-change
                 projects were aimed at removing barriers to energy conservation and
                 efficiency or to removing barriers to adopting renewable energy. Four
                 countries—China, Brazil, India, and Indonesia—received 69 percent of the
                 funds for climate-change projects.

                 In coordination with the three international agencies that help implement
                 its projects, the Facility has established an approach for project oversight
                 and evaluation. This approach includes both strategic-level reviews, which
                 examine such issues as the Facility’s effectiveness in providing resources
                 to address global environmental problems and the Facility’s relationship
                 with recipient nations, and project-level reviews, which examine the
                 implementation and the results of individual projects in greater detail.
                 These reviews have found both strengths and weaknesses. In some cases,
                 the Facility’s projects have encouraged the broader adoption of
                 environmentally sound technologies by recipient countries. However,
                 some projects appear dependent on funds from the Facility and might not
                 meet the expectation that they be self-sustaining after that funding ends.

                 Established in 1991, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) is an
Background       international funding organization that provides grants to developing
                 nations for projects that help protect the global environment. GEF provides
                 funds for projects in four priority areas: (1) biodiversity, which includes
                 preserving species by protecting ecosystems; (2) climate change, which
                 promotes ways to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases; (3) international
                 waters, which focuses on the effects of land-based pollution or the

                 Page 2                                  GAO/RCED-99-149 International Environment

                  overuse of marine resources; and (4) the depletion of the ozone layer. The
                  United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the
                  Convention on Biological Diversity,1 to both of which the United States is
                  a signatory, have designated GEF as their primary funding mechanism. The
                  pilot phase of GEF lasted from 1991 through 1994, when the facility was
                  restructured with the goal of providing universal membership and greater
                  openness in managing its affairs.

                  GEF’s governing structure consists of an Assembly, a Council, and a
                  Secretariat. The Assembly has representatives from over 160 member
                  nations and meets once every 3 years to review GEF’s general policies. The
                  Council—the main governing body—has representatives of both donor and
                  recipient countries. Officials of the U.S. Department of the Treasury told
                  us that Treasury officials serve as representatives to the Council. The
                  Department’s Office of Multilateral Development Banks is the primary
                  contact point between the U.S. government and GEF. The Council meets
                  every 6 months to develop and evaluate GEF’s operational policies and
                  programs and to review project proposals. Finally, the GEF Secretariat
                  helps ensure implementation of the decisions of the Assembly and the
                  Council. GEF-funded projects are implemented and overseen by the United
                  Nations Development Program, the United Nations Environment Program,
                  and the World Bank. Known as the implementing agencies, they serve as
                  the primary conduits between GEF and the recipient nations.

                  From fiscal years 1995 through 1998, 35 countries pledged to contribute a
Three Nations     total of about $2 billion to GEF’s trust fund. As figure 1 shows, three
Pledged Most of   countries accounted for $1.1 billion, or 54 percent of the total amount
GEF’s Funds       pledged: the United States ($430 million), Japan ($415 million), and
                  Germany ($240 million). Another four countries pledged $480 million, or
                  24 percent of the total: France, the United Kingdom, Italy, and Canada.
                  Finally, 28 other countries pledged a total of about $460 million, or 23
                  percent of the total.2 The average contribution of these 28 countries was
                  $16.5 million. The United States also has pledged a total of $430 million for
                  fiscal years 1999 through 2002. The U.S. share of funding to GEF is
                  comparable to its contributions to other international agencies.

                   Under the Framework Convention, which was signed by the United States in 1992, the signatory
                  nations agreed to adopt policies and measures aimed at reducing their greenhouse gas emissions to
                  1990 levels by the year 2000. The Convention on Biological Diversity, which entered into force in
                  December 1993, is designed to help ensure biological diversity by preserving species and ecosystems.
                   Numbers do not add to 100 percent due to rounding.

                  Page 3                                             GAO/RCED-99-149 International Environment

Figure 1: Countries Making the Largest
Pledges to GEF, Fiscal Years 1995        Dollars in millions
Through 1998






                                         100                                                        $87


                                                    U.S.   Japan Germany France     U.K.   Italy   Canada

                                         Source: GAO’s analysis of GEF’s data.

                                         To meet the U.S. pledge of $430 million, the Congress appropriated
                                         between $30 million and $90 million each year from fiscal years 1994
                                         through 1998 (see fig. 2). The total appropriation over these 5 years was
                                         $237.5 million, $192.5 million short of the amount pledged. To cover this
                                         shortfall, the Congress appropriated $192.5 million to GEF for 1999.

                                         Page 4                                        GAO/RCED-99-149 International Environment

Figure 2: U.S. Appropriations to GEF,
Fiscal Years 1994 Through 1999          Dollars in millions

                                        200                                                       $192.5

                                        150                                                                $143.3


                                         50                                               $47.5

                                                                     $35       $35


                                                   1994       1995   1996     1997         1998    1999     2000
                                                                            Fiscal year

                                        Source: GAO.

                                        In 1998, member nations renewed their financial commitment to GEF for
                                        fiscal years 1999 through 2002. They agreed to contribute the same
                                        proportional share that they had contributed during the previous 4-year
                                        period. As a result, the United States pledged another $430 million for this
                                        period. Because no funds were appropriated in 1999 toward this pledge,

                                        Page 5                                               GAO/RCED-99-149 International Environment

                         the United States would need to appropriate an average of $143.3 million
                         per year from fiscal years 2000 through 2002 to meet its obligation to GEF
                         in a timely manner. Accordingly, the administration requested
                         $143.3 million for GEF for fiscal year 2000.

                         According to Treasury officials, the U.S. share of funding for GEF is
                         consistent with its contributions to other international agencies. They said
                         that a nation’s contributions to international agencies are generally
                         intended to reflect its relative ability to pay. Among the factors that may be
                         considered are a nation’s national income, debt, and per capita income.
                         The U.S. share for GEF (about 21 percent for both 4-year periods) is the
                         same as its share for the International Monetary Fund, while its share for
                         the United Nations is 25 percent.

                         GEF has established a project review and approval process during which its
GEF’s Project Review     staff, implementing agencies, member nations, scientific and technical
and Approval Process     specialists, and others can review and comment on proposed projects.
Includes Many            Participants in the review process consider GEF’s policy objectives and its
                         technical and environmental criteria. Treasury officials said that the final
Participants That        selection of projects emphasizes negotiations and consensus.
Apply Various Criteria
                         The review and approval process includes four broad phases. First, an
and Considerations       applicant, such as a country’s government, submits an initial project
                         concept to one of the three implementing agencies—the United Nations
                         Environment Program, the United Nations Development Program, or the
                         World Bank. If the project is deemed eligible and worthwhile, the
                         applicant and the implementing agency then develop a project proposal,
                         outlines for engineering and design work, and environmental impact
                         projections. Second, GEF’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel, which
                         includes experts in GEF’s four priority areas, assesses the project for
                         technical appropriateness. The GEF Secretariat and Operations Committee
                         assess how well the project proposal meets GEF’s eligibility criteria and
                         more detailed policy objectives. Third, successful project proposals are
                         placed in a work program—a compilation of project proposals that is
                         developed and reviewed four times annually—for review and comment by
                         the GEF Council, which includes representatives of GEF’s member
                         countries. During this phase, representatives of the United States and
                         other member countries have the opportunity to review and suggest
                         modifications to proposed projects. Fourth, the final project documents
                         are prepared and reviewed. If approved, the project is then implemented.

                         Page 6                                 GAO/RCED-99-149 International Environment

To be eligible, a project must, among other things, (1) be from an eligible
country, one that is eligible to borrow from the World Bank and is a
signatory to the relevant international convention; (2) use funds from GEF
only for new activities; and (3) use funds from GEF only for the incremental
costs pertaining to global environmental benefits. Incremental costs are
the additional costs incurred when a development project also has global
environmental benefits. For example, if a country or firm proposes to
build an electrical generating plant fueled by advanced solar-energy
technology instead of a less expensive coal-fired plant, funds from GEF may
be used only to fund those costs of the solar-energy technology that would
exceed those of the coal plant.

Throughout the review and approval process, the various GEF
representatives also assess project proposals in light of considerations
that reflect GEF’s policy objectives, in addition to its eligibility criteria. For
example, GEF’s policy objectives stress that communities potentially
affected by a project should be included in that project’s development and
that their needs should be reflected in its design. According to GEF,
effective public involvement can facilitate the local population’s
acceptance of biodiversity projects, which can limit hunting and grazing in
sensitive areas, and can help develop alternatives to replace the activities
that would be limited. Also, a project is supposed to be sustainable after
funding from GEF ends. For example, a climate-change project that funds
energy-efficient lighting technology is likely to continue after funding from
GEF ends and could encourage the adoption of similar designs elsewhere.
According to Treasury officials, this technical and policy review process
rejects the majority of project proposals before they would reach the

A member country’s influence on project selection is generally exerted in
negotiations in the GEF Council. GEF does not have a formal process of
scoring and ranking projects that are competing for limited resources, and
neither individual projects nor work programs typically come to a vote
before the GEF Council. Instead, the GEF Council and other participants in
the review and approval process have an opportunity to comment on and
improve proposals. Projects that do not meet GEF’s eligibility criteria and
other considerations are usually removed from consideration by the
implementing agency or the GEF Secretariat. If Council members agree that
a proposal has significant weaknesses, it is either rejected or its approval
is conditioned on specific improvements. When projects are rejected, the
implementing agencies may choose to revise and resubmit them to the

Page 7                                   GAO/RCED-99-149 International Environment

                                        From fiscal years 1995 through 1998, GEF allocated a total of $1.1 billion to
Climate Change and                      projects in four priority areas. Over three–fourths of GEF’s allocations
Biodiversity Projects                   went to climate change ($488 million or 41 percent) and biodiversity
Received About                          ($435 million or 36 percent) (see fig. 3). According to U.S. officials, these
                                        two priority areas received the majority of funds in part because GEF is the
Three-Fourths of                        primary source of funds to support the Framework Convention on Climate
GEF’s Funds                             Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity. Smaller amounts went
                                        to international waters ($116 million or 10 percent) and ozone depletion
                                        ($109 million or 9 percent).3 GEF allocated an additional $44 million to
                                        projects that addressed multiple priority areas.

Figure 3: GEF Allocations by Priority
Areas, Fiscal Years 1995 Through 1998
                                                                                             Climate change

                                                                                             Multiple focal areas

                                                                        •                    9%
                                                                                             Ozone depletion

                                             • 41%                     10%


                                                                                             International waters


                                        Source: GAO’s analysis of GEF’s data.

                                        For more information on funding to address ozone depletion, see International Environment:
                                        Operations of the Montreal Protocol Multilateral Fund (GAO/T-RCED-97-218, July 30, 1997).

                                        Page 8                                            GAO/RCED-99-149 International Environment

The $488 million allocated to climate-change projects was apportioned
among five categories and 138 projects. Over half of the funds for
climate-change projects went to two of these categories—renewable
energy ($174 million or 36 percent) and energy efficiency and conservation
($137 million or 28 percent) (see fig. 4). The countries receiving the largest
amounts of funds for climate-change projects were China, Brazil, India,
and Indonesia, and these allocations were largely for projects intended to
advance renewable energy and energy efficiency and conservation.

The 19 projects in the renewable energy category are intended to remove
barriers to and lower the costs of technologies, such as windmills to pump
agricultural water and solar technology to convert solar energy into
electricity. For example, a project in Peru—to which GEF allocated
$4 million—focuses on improving data, technical standards, and training
to promote the use of photovoltaic systems to generate electricity for rural
areas. According to an estimate provided in the project’s proposal, carbon
dioxide emissions could be reduced by 77,000 tons over the 20-year life of
the project.

The 15 energy efficiency and conservation projects are intended to
support selected market applications, such as more energy-efficient
industrial processes and more efficient heating and cooling of buildings.
For example, a project in China—to which GEF allocated $33 million—will
promote the adoption of efficiency improvements to coal-fired industrial
boilers, which are the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions
associated with energy use in China. Over the 20-year life of the project,
GEF estimates that the efficiency improvements will reduce carbon dioxide
emissions by 175 million tons.

The remaining 104 projects tend to be much smaller in dollar terms. Of
these, 94 address the need for planning and capacity-building in
developing nations; 7 provide short-term measures to reduce greenhouse
emissions, such as switching from coal to other carbon-based fuels to
generate power; and 3 are designed to reduce the long-term costs of low
greenhouse gas-emitting technologies.

Page 9                                 GAO/RCED-99-149 International Environment

Figure 4: GEF Allocations to
Climate-Change Projects by Type,
Fiscal Years 1995 Through 1998                                               Renewable energy

                                                              •              8%
                                                                             Short-term measures
                                         • 36%



                                                                             Planning and capacity building

                                                                             Low greenhouse gas-emitting

                                                                             Energy efficiency and conservation

                                   Source: GAO’s analysis of GEF’s data.

                                   Of the 138 climate-change projects, 127 are located in 97 developing
                                   nations. The remaining 11 projects have a regional or global focus and
                                   generally are located in two or more countries. Of the 127 projects, the
                                   largest number, 7, are located in China. Brazil and Indonesia each received
                                   funding for four projects. Three countries received funding for three
                                   climate-change projects each and twelve others received funding for two
                                   projects each. The remaining 79 nations received funding for one project

                                   Page 10                                 GAO/RCED-99-149 International Environment

                                      GEF allocated $400 million to the 97 nations for climate-change projects,
                                      with another $88 million allocated to 11 global and regional ones. Of the
                                      $400 million, four nations received $276 million (69 percent of the total
                                      funding): China (29 percent), Brazil (16 percent), India (16 percent), and
                                      Indonesia (8 percent). The remaining 93 nations received $124 million (31
                                      percent) of the funds GEF dedicated to climate-change projects, an average
                                      of about $1.3 million per country (see fig. 5).

Figure 5: GEF’s Allocations to
Climate-Change Projects by Country,                                             China
Fiscal Years 1995 Through 1998

                                             • 29%                  31% •       93 other recipients

                                                16%                    •        8%
                                                  •                             Indonesia

                                                            16% •               India


                                      Source: GAO’s analysis of GEF’s data.

                                      Projects receiving funds from GEF often receive funds from other sources
                                      as well. Funds from GEF are intended to fund only the incremental
                                      cost—the difference between the cost of a project with global
                                      environmental benefits and the cost of that project if it were pursued
                                      without those benefits. For example, for a project that would promote the
                                      use of solar energy technology over the use of a less costly coal-fired
                                      power generator, GEF would pay the incremental difference in cost
                                      between the two projects. Consequently, the other costs of the project
                                      must be met by other sources, such as the implementing agencies, private

                                      Page 11                                 GAO/RCED-99-149 International Environment

                      companies, or host governments. For example, a renewable energy project
                      in China, which will install wind and solar systems to produce electricity
                      and lower the long-term costs of commercializing those systems, has a
                      total cost of $408 million. Funding sources include the private companies
                      ($293 million), the implementing agencies ($65 million), GEF ($35 million),
                      and the government of China ($15 million).

                      GEF’s framework for oversight and evaluation includes reviews at both the
GEF’s Oversight and   strategic level and the project level. The strategic level includes reviews of
Evaluation Efforts    GEF’s overall performance, which cover such topics as GEF’s effectiveness

Noted Mixed Results   in providing resources to address global environmental problems and its
                      relationship with recipient nations. Project-level reviews focus on the
                      prospects for meeting environmental objectives and other issues at the
                      project level. GEF’s 1997 review of its overall performance found that some
                      projects did not comply fully with project-selection criteria and
                      considerations. According to a Treasury official, these findings led to
                      reform proposals by the United States.

                      GEF and the implementing agencies engage in several types of strategic
                      oversight. For example, GEF conducts broad assessments of overall
                      performance to examine such issues as how effectively GEF provides
                      resources for global environmental projects and how well the various
                      organizations work together to select, implement, and oversee GEF’s
                      projects. Two of these reviews have been done to date, one in 1994 and
                      another in 1997, both in preparation for negotiations on replenishing
                      funding for GEF. These reviews are performed by an external team
                      nominated by the GEF Council, including individuals with experience in
                      environmental science and managing global projects. GEF also performs
                      about three to six crosscutting reviews per year. These reviews are
                      theme-oriented, focusing on such issues as the role of agriculture in
                      preserving biological diversity or the importance of building technical
                      capacity in countries needing to address climate-change issues. These
                      reviews are documented in periodic “lessons learned” documents to
                      share best practices and experiences with other GEF project managers. At
                      the request of individual countries, GEF also conducts country reviews,
                      which can examine the potential or the actual environmental impact of
                      GEF’s operations in a country.

                      GEF has also established an approach to evaluate the effectiveness of
                      individual projects. For example, each GEF project that exceeds 3 years in
                      length—as the majority does—undergoes a midterm review by the

                      Page 12                                GAO/RCED-99-149 International Environment

implementing agency or outside consultants. These reviews focus on a
project’s progress toward its objectives and may result in suggestions to
modify its design. In addition, when a project has been completed, the
implementing agency is responsible for preparing a report that assesses
the achievement of the project’s objectives, the factors that facilitated or
hindered achieving them, and the lessons learned.

GEF’s oversight and evaluation efforts have found both strengths and
weaknesses. For example, the 1997 study of overall performance found
that some projects significantly affected a country’s policies beyond the
their immediate objectives. For example, a project in India that used
biomethane as a fuel source led to a $60 million investment by the Indian
government to generate energy from waste. However, the study also found
that project implementation did not always meet GEF’s expectations. For
example, projects that receive funds from GEF are supposed to be
financially sustainable when that funding ends, but a review of 17 project
submissions in 10 countries found that financial sustainability was
specifically addressed in just 7 cases. Moreover, the study found that
serious financial planning for sustainability of projects was not common
and that few project proposals discussed how recurring costs would be
met. Finally, some countries had difficulty establishing that funds from GEF
would be used only to cover the incremental costs of a project—that is, the
additional costs incurred when a development project also targets global
environmental benefits. According to a Treasury official, the problems
regarding financial sustainability and incremental costs are more common
among the biodiversity and international waters projects than the
climate-change projects.

GEF  has not yet done a specific review focusing on climate-change
projects. However, the results of broader studies provide some
information on how well GEF is addressing the climate-change issue. At a
broader level, the 1997 study of GEF’s overall performance found that the
current emphasis of removing barriers, such as barriers to commercially
viable energy conservation and efficiency technologies, is appropriate for
the climate-change priority area. Furthermore, the study found that GEF
had appropriately allocated funds for climate-change projects to recipient
countries, given the need to provide sufficient resources to the countries
with the highest emissions and to implement those projects in a variety of
settings. At the project level, the 1997 project implementation review
found that about three-fourths of GEF’s projects ranked satisfactory or
better in either implementation progress or prospects for achieving
environmental objectives and that about one-quarter ranked below

Page 13                                GAO/RCED-99-149 International Environment

                  satisfactory, generally for implementation problems due to a lack of
                  stakeholders’ involvement.

                  We provided a draft of this report to the Department of the Treasury for
Agency Comments   review and comment. In response, Treasury said that the report provides a
                  balanced, informative presentation of the Global Environment Facility’s
                  funding, project selection, and oversight processes. (Treasury’s letter
                  appears in app. I.)

                  To respond to this request, we examined GEF documents and met with
Scope and         officials of Treasury’s Office of Multilateral Development Banks. We
Methodolgy        limited our work on the amounts and the sources of funds and how they
                  were allocated for fiscal years 1995 through 1998 because activities during
                  the pilot phase might not be comparable to later activities. We did not
                  adjust dollar amounts for inflation, and we did not independently verify
                  the information provided by GEF and by Treasury officials. We conducted
                  our work from February through May 1999 in accordance with generally
                  accepted government auditing standards.

                  As arranged with your office, unless you publicly announce its contents
                  earlier, we plan no further distribution of this report until 10 days from its
                  date. At that time, we will send copies of this report to congressional
                  committees with jurisdiction over international environmental affairs;
                  interested Members of Congress; Mohamed T. El-Ashry, Chief Executive
                  Officer, Secretariat of the Global Environment Facility; the Honorable
                  Robert E. Rubin, Secretary of the Treasury; the Honorable Carol M.
                  Browner, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency; and other
                  interested parties. We will also make copies available to others upon

                  Page 14                                 GAO/RCED-99-149 International Environment

Please call me at (202) 512-6111 if you or your staff have any questions.
Major contributors to this report were Michael Hartnett, Michael Daulton,
and David Marwick.

Sincerely yours,

David G. Wood
Associate Director, Environmental
  Protection Issues

Page 15                              GAO/RCED-99-149 International Environment
Appendix I

Comments From the Department of the

(160469)     Page 16       GAO/RCED-99-149 International Environment
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