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The French Facility for Global Environment (FFEM) was launched after the first Earth Summit, in 1994. Since then, it has worked towards a single goal: to create synergies between environmental preservation and sustainable development in local communities. It has achieved this through innovation and a collaborative approach to problem solving, explains FFEM Secretary-General Stéphanie Bouziges-Eschmann.

This article was first published on www.afd.fr

Stéphanie Bouziges-EschmannAfter 25 years of work, where does the FFEM stand today?

Stéphanie Bouziges-Eschmann: The FFEM promotes the development of different types of innovation: new technologies, new methods and modes of governance, new approaches to organisation or collaboration, and new uses. These include, for example, community-based management models for forests and protected areas, innovative financial mechanisms for biodiversity, nature-based solutions in coastal areas or towns, and solar-powered motorcycle taxis. 

The Facility was set up to take risks and develop ground-breaking solutions. It has the courage to support projects that are deemed too risky for other investors, but which have the spark needed to ignite change and become the drivers of a massive transformation on a sectoral, national or even international scale. 

Since its foundation, one of the FFEM’s differentiating factors has been its strategy of taking risks, while learning important lessons from any failures along the way. It does not support innovation for innovation's sake but with a view to scaling up effective solutions. It targets pilot projects that can be replicated in other areas or countries from the design stage. 

To promote this dissemination and scaling-up of solutions, the FFEM also emphasises the importance of capitalising on and sharing knowledge. Its actions are guided by lessons learned over the past 25 years. Projects are systematically evaluated and then integrated into networks within thematic clusters. For example, we launched the Mangrove initiative in June 2019, bringing together four projects developed in four different regions of the world. The FFEM aims to develop experience-sharing between stakeholders, to broaden knowledge and to drive change, while continuously improving its operations.

2020 is shaping up to be a pivotal year for the environment. What will the main challenges be for the FFEM?

First of all, if we look at the issue on a global scale: 75% of the planet’s surface has already been damaged by human activity. One million animal and plant species are at risk of extinction. Deforestation has affected 100 million hectares of land over the last 20 years. About 50% of coral reefs have been destroyed in the last 150 years. Over the past few years, CO2 emissions associated with human activities have escalated again. Plastic pollution has increased tenfold in 40 years. 

Biodiversity is disappearing like never before. Industrial pressure and global warming are destabilising all our aquatic ecosystems. Land degradation is becoming increasingly widespread. In short, the rate of damage to the planet is accelerating and it is often the poorest populations who are hit first.

Nowadays, it is clear how closely linked these issues are, particularly where biodiversity preservation and the fight against climate change are concerned. It is essential that our climate objectives do not have a negative impact on ecosystems. The need for an integrated approach to environmental issues was identified by the FFEM a long time ago. With ever-greater incentives to develop environmentally friendly projects for the climate, the oceans and biodiversity, the agro-ecology projects financed by the FFEM perfectly illustrate this approach, benefiting land, forests, biodiversity and the fight against climate change. 

With the IUCN World Conservation Congress in June, the COP15 on biodiversity in October and the COP26 on climate in November, 2020 is a pivotal year for the environment. This clustering of events is an opportunity to harmonise political agendas on biodiversity and climate change, something that the FFEM has been calling for since it was first established.

What synergies are there between operations at the FFEM and the AFD? 

The FFEM aims to disseminate and scale-up the most effective solutions with the support of other financial backers such as the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) Group, a key partner and member of the steering committee responsible for financial decision-making for the Facility’s projects. It has adopted a collaborative approach that draws on the complementary expertise of its stakeholders (French or local public bodies, the private sector, NGOs and research organisations) and often supports projects alongside the AFD Group.

Twenty-five years ago, the FFEM pioneered projects promoting synergy between the environment and development. Environmental issues are now fundamental to activities at the AFD. The Group is mobilised to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and, in particular, to lead the fight against climate change, with a 100% Paris Agreement objective. Biodiversity preservation is also a key issue, with the Group investing more heavily in projects that have co-benefits in this area. 

Furthermore, in 2020, the objectives of the FFEM and AFD will converge in an integrated approach to sustainable development, encompassing environmental, climate and biodiversity issues. 

The FFEM's added value has always been its capacity to support new solutions that complement, and sometimes anticipate, AFD projects. This collaborative effort between the two partner institutions aims to scale-up and, in a broader sense, transform existing models.