End of four-year period 2019-2022; strategy for 2023-2026: interview with Christophe Bories, Chair of the FFEM Steering Committee

published on 07 April 2023
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2013 - Photos mission Marsabit Kenya - Yves Terracol - AFD
Chair of the FFEM Steering Committee, Christophe Bories, looks back on the period 2019-2022 and its defining moments, and comments on the challenges the FFEM should address over the next four years.


Christophe Boris COPIL


How has the 2019-2022 period illustrated the FFEM’s role and mission?

These four years have really served to illustrate the FFEM’s core mission: EXPERIMENT, INNOVATE, ADAPT and CO-CREATE with local stakeholders.

With €103 million committed, supporting 60 projects, almost three quarters of those in Africa, the FFEM has certainly achieved its objectives. It doesn’t set out to be the largest fund, but aims to contribute by identifying innovation, experimenting, and adapting flexibly to different situations. The FFEM has demonstrated its ability to co-create with local stakeholders in a challenging global context, particularly in light of the COVID-19 crisis which I’ll come back to.

The FFEM demonstrates - very effectively - that environment isn’t just about climate. It’s just as active on biodiversity preservation as it is on climate, and that’s probably unusual enough in itself to make us stand out. The importance of this intersection between climate and biodiversity has been underlined by both the IPCC and the IPBES. The FFEM has a significant role to play on this inseparable link between the two.

In addition, the FFEM has pursued the broadest possible approach to “global environment”, by integrating all the different environmental challenges. It supports a great variety of projects, ranging from those combating desertification to those addressing the governance of marine and coastal ecosystems. This wide approach is also demonstrated in its calls for projects addressing chemicals and hazardous waste, as well as sustainable refrigeration and air-conditioning, which combine climate action with combating damage to the ozone layer.

As you know, there are many funds addressing climate issues. The FFEM has focused on adaptation and mitigation through ecosystems and nature-based solutions, than rather than through technological proposals which can be controversial. The role of the FFEM is not to duplicate existing solutions, but to favour an innovative approach – in some cases technological but in other cases organisational or methodological.

Are there any projects that made a particular impression on you in 2019-2022?

Difficult question! We’ve supported such a huge range of projects: nature-based solutions; ecosystem management in Mediterranean wetlands, South America’s Andean Plateau, mangroves, seagrass beds or African forests; bioclimatic and sustainable construction in the Sahel; and the reduction and management of plastic waste.

There are several types of project. Those (not the commonest) involving an interesting technological innovation: I’m thinking particularly of a project in Tunisia that’s recovering plastic to transform into energy, or another – discussed at length by the FFEM Steering Committee – using flying kites to generate electricity in Mauritius. Those (more common) based on supply chain or land management, including several forestry projects in Central Africa and zero-deforestation cocoa projects. Then there are those projects in very challenging locations, such as the Sahel, mostly involving the protection of natural parks. It’s significant that the FFEM dares to take a stand on environmental issues in countries with fragile security, and always listens to local communities.

The ONE FOREST SUMMIT on 2 and 3 March provided an opportunity to spotlight the FFEM's Evaluation and Capitalisation aspect: what value do you feel it adds?

Evaluation and Capitalisation is central to the FFEM's role in explaining the relevance of innovative solutions and helping to scale them up. The FFEM's actions are guided by lessons learned over more than 25 years, through evaluating projects grouped into themed clusters. The ongoing challenge is to draw even more from these learnings, to make them more accessible and disseminate them as widely as possible. To achieve that, the FFEM has diversified its capitalisation approaches to better share learnings; so we have cross-capitalisation between several projects or programmes, in itinere capitalisation during implementation of projects, and ex post capitalisation once projects are finished. These different capitalisation formats throughout the life of the project are essential in making the case for the project, and for influencing other stakeholders, practitioners, decision-makers and donors with greater funding capacity to replicate and scale-up solutions.

The FFEM now has a number of reference publications, with the aim of creating a collection. The guide to Marine Protected Areas, published for the World Conservation Congress in Marseille in September 2021, was used again at the Fifth International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC5) in Vancouver in March 2023. The One Forest Summit saw recommendations for the sustainable management of forests in Central Africa shared in various formats with decision-makers. A forthcoming publication on Nature in the City will complete this collection.

Although the COVID-19 crisis limited the extent of the FFEM's actions in a number of places and forums, the FFEM team has been able to produce some high quality content on the topic of capitalisation.

What do you feel were the defining features of the period 2019-2022?

Obviously the COVID-19 crisis was an unprecedented event. The FFEM proved itself highly resilient in attaining its financing objectives, monitoring partner project delivery as closely as possible, remaining flexible, and adapting project assessment methods by involving local consultants.

The FFEM’s 25th anniversary celebration in March 2020 was another defining feature of this period. Through testimonials from project sponsors and partners, this was an opportunity to look back at the FFEM’s two main strategic goals: innovating, and sharing, to scale-up solutions and achieve greater impact for the environment and for development.

The FFEM also played an active role at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Marseille in September 2021, which was the first international conference on the environment to take place after the COVID-19 crisis. This event represented a milestone in mobilising the international community to support nature conservation and to develop a new Global Biodiversity Framework, particularly with respect to post-COVID-19 “green” recovery. The FFEM took part in around 20 events at the Congress, on the resolution of human-wildlife conflicts, governance of protected areas, nature-based recovery, challenges related to the high seas, and mitigation and control of climate impacts through conservation and mangrove restoration.

The end of this period saw two key events: the COP27 Climate Conference and the COP15 Biodiversity Conference. COP15 proved particularly ambitious through the commitment by 196 signatories, in Montreal on 19 December 2022, to protect 30% of the planet by 2030. The declared target of channelling USD30 billion from developed to developing countries by 2030, from both public and private sources, is a huge undertaking and one that can only be celebrated. As an “innovation incubator” and solutions tester, the FFEM is a valuable ally for achieving these commitments, working with all of our national and international partners, and particularly with the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

France’s commitment of a further €132 million for 2023-2026 has reaffirmed its confidence in the FFEM. What do you see as the greatest challenge?

The FFEM has effectively seen a 10% increase in funding, commensurate with the facility’s size and resources. This increase reflects the ongoing financial commitment from the government and the Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Industrial and Digital Sovereignty (MEFSIN), as well as the confidence placed in it by all the member institutions, parliamentarians and NGOs. It also confirms the wish to be able to support a few more projects, without diluting what gives the FFEM its quality and originality, particularly the oversight of each project by its Scientific and Technical Committee.

The next 4 years will be dedicated to implementing the roadmaps emerging from Climate COP27 and Biodiversity COP15, and from the FFEM's new 2023-2026 Strategy. A new strategy that was the result of hard work throughout 2022, including external interactions and consultations. The main challenge is to continue what we’ve started - while perhaps communicating more clearly so that we’re better understood - and to reaffirm certain broad directions and objectives, particularly in terms of the approaches we consider useful, through more reader-friendly content. Our teams have done an amazing job in producing a document that is aimed at project sponsors, but that’s equally understandable to a wider audience.

Within this new strategy the FFEM intends to make its own contribution to France's ambitious international stance. Project sponsors are already responding, with some 20 proposals already being assessed by the FFEM Secretariat.