Claude Gascon : “The FFEM gives us access to a network of key stakeholders”

published on 19 June 2024
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GEF Council Meeting
The 67th meeting of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Council is taking place in Washington, DC, from 17-20 June 2024. In this interview* Dr. Claude Gascon, GEF's Director of Strategy and Operations, explains what it does and the many ways in which the GEF and FFEM work together.

*Interview conducted by the FFEM in August 2023, coinciding with the release of its 2022-2023 activity report.

  • What can you tell us about your role at the GEF? 

Claude Gascon FEMClaude Gascon At the GEF, I’m responsible for awarding grants to, and programming resources for, recipient countries. Before taking on this current role, I was Executive Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation between 2010 and 2015, where the main focus of my research was the biodiversity of Amazonia. I began my career there as Project Manager and Scientific Coordinator of the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments (BDFFP) project for six years.

  • Combating deforestation by identifying solutions and securing project funding is one of your main missions, so could you tell us more about that work?

The GEF is mandated to deliver global environmental benefits across many environmental sectors, including biodiversity, climate change and land degradation. Tropical deforestation is one of the main drivers of biodiversity loss. It also results in increased greenhouse gas emissions and accelerated land and soil degradation.

Combating deforestation means identifying alternatives to meet societal needs without forest extraction and deforestation. So our work is done at the point where agriculture, commodity supply chains, urbanisation and other factors converge. We also provide resources to countries to develop landscape management technologies.

Further reading: « Sustainable management of agricultural and forests landscapes »

  • How do the GEF and FFEM complement each other in your view? And how does that feed through into the projects you support together?

The two organisations have been working together in the field since the GEF was first established. The very first project to be jointly funded by the GEF and FFEM was in 1995, and it focused on combating the tropical deforestation caused by slash-and-burn agriculture in Africa. Since then, we’ve worked jointly on a succession of projects in Africa and Latin America1. The FFEM gives us access to a network of key stakeholders - experts, NGOs and research institutions - and can also help coordinate investments with the Agence Française de Développement (AFD).

We will be cooperating even more closely in the years ahead thanks to the new GEF-82 which creates opportunities for key collaborations, including the particularly promising “Amazon, Congo & Critical Forest Biomes” integrated programme. With a budget of around 300 million dollars, it focuses on conserving the world's most precious primary forests through higher standards of governance, combating deforestation, developing sustainable economic activity and recognising the rights of indigenous peoples. It therefore aligns very well with the ambitions and investments of the FFEM, and the TerrIndigena project is an excellent example of that.

Lastly, we identify other opportunities for cooperation, such as the GEF’s “Wildlife Conservation for Development”, “Clean and Healthy Ocean”, “Sustainable Cities” and “Circular Solutions to Plastic Pollution” integrated programmes, and the newly launched Global Biodiversity Framework Fund.

Further reading: « The FFEM and its partners are committed to preserving indigenous territories in the Amazon region »

You advocate the introduction of two solutions - “Biodiversity-positive carbon credits” and “nature certificates” - to help with forest conservation. What joint projects could work towards that goal?

Concerted efforts are needed to close the significant shortfall in funding for global biodiversity. So at the One Forest Summit in March 2023, the GEF chaired an international working group focused entirely on this goal. The GEF and FFEM agree that developing innovative tools for funding biodiversity is a strategic priority, and so we’ll certainly be working together to implement the recommendations brought forward by 
the working group. Given the role of the FFEM as a catalyst for innovation, this collaboration could include pilot projects on emerging instruments, such as Biodiversity-positive carbon credits and nature certificates, at the same time as overseeing mechanisms for consolidated governance, institutional and political frameworks and local ownership, and putting in place the right conditions for effective scaling-up