The environment is one of the five pillars of Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and is also playing an increasingly central role within the United Nations. Below is a brief introduction to this policy theme.


Find more information about the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Green Climate Fund (GCF), and the Montreal Protocol Multilateral Fund here.
  1. Last updated on

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is the United Nations' environment programme. UNEP has the mandate to assume leadership as a worldwide authority on the global environment. In this role, UNEP contributes to the global environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the UN system, and serves the environment as an authoritative advocate.

UNEP sets international standards for environmental policy and gives direction to international action in this field based on scientific knowledge. Since Rio+20 and the elaboration of the SDGs, UNEP has played an important role in the implementation of the environmental dimension within the sustainable development framework of the 2030 Agenda.

UNEP focuses explicitly on tackling the triple planetary crisis, the three global environmental challenges:

  • climate change;
  • loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystems;
  • pollution.

A scientifically based environmental policy and management and sustainable consumption and production are supporting pillars.

More precisely, UNEP's activities can be summarised as follows:

  • monitoring and evaluating global, regional and national environmental trends;
  • developing national and international instruments to tackle environmental problems;
  • supporting national institutions for well-founded environmental management;
  • facilitating the transfer of environmental science and technology in a sustainable development context; and
  • encouraging partnerships and new initiatives in the public, non-governmental and private sectors with a view to bringing the most pressing environmental problems to the attention of public authorities.

UNEP has an annual budget of about 450 million dollars. Belgium has been a loyal partner for a long time and contributes 4 million euros per year on the basis of multi-year agreements will contribute 17.3 million euros in the period 2021-2024 to the overall operation of the programme. In addition, UNEP's climate action is also supported with additional funding. The regions are also supporting some of UNEP's programmes through specific programmes and projects.

The FPS Foreign Affairs manages the federal financial contribution to the organisation and monitors UNEP's operations from the Central Administration and the Belgian Permanent Representation in Nairobi. It takes part in UNEP's governing bodies for this purpose and organises a bilateral meeting with the UNEP top management team every two years on average to monitor the agreements made in the present multi-year agreement.

Global Environment Facility (GEF)

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) was created in 1991 in preparation for the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit (1992). Its mission was to mobilise the financial means necessary to deal with the major environmental problems on a global scale. Subsequent to a pilot phase until mid-1994, the GEF was able to start financing programmes following the conclusion of negotiations that led to the adoption of the GEF Instrument in Geneva in March 1994. Initially, 73 states were members of this fund. Today, they number 183.

Like the Green Climate Fund, the GEF is one of the two main financing mechanisms with a mandate for global climate change financing. While the GCF's mandate includes climate change adaptation and mitigation, the GEF focuses solely on climate change mitigation financing. That is, the GEF is responsible for providing finance to help emerging and developing countries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

But its mandate is broader than that. The GEF's mission is to finance projects and programmes in the following five areas:

  • protection and conservation of biodiversity;
  • combating land degradation;
  • management of (toxic) waste and chemicals;
  • international water management;
  • climate change mitigation as mentioned above. 

The GEF thus serves as the financial mechanism for the three Rio environmental conventions (UNFCCC, UNCBD, UNCCD) as well as the Minamata Convention (on mercury) and the Stockholm Convention (on Persistent Organic Pollutants, POPs).

The GEF also administers the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) and the Special Climate Changes Fund (SCCF).

The GEF has its Secretariat at the World Bank headquarters in Washington, which is the GEF Trustee. It has a budget that is approved every four years through a negotiation process called replenishment. Since its creation, this is the 7th time that the GEF budget has been replenished, which is why we are talking about GEF-7, which covers the period from the beginning of July 2018 to the end of June 2022. The GEF-7 budget amounts to USD 4.068 billion for 4 years. 

Amounts of the 5th, 6th and 7th allocated to each priority theme

Summary of the amounts of the 5th, 6th and 7th allocated to each priority theme

Therefore, the GEF is not a multilateral organisation that implements environmental programmes itself. The GEF has 18 implementing agencies for this purpose, of which the four principal organisations are the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

In order to discuss its major political, strategic, budgetary and administrative orientations, the GEF has a governing board of 32 members who meet every six months (mid-December and mid-June each year). 

Diagram outlining the links between the different GEF authorities

Diagram outlining the links between the different GEF authorities

Belgium's contributions to the GEF and the 8th GEF replenishment

In 2018, Belgium contributed 60 million euros to the 7th GEF replenishment running from mid-2018 to mid-2022.

In April 2022, after a negotiation process lasting more than a year, the GEF donor states agreed on a record recapitalisation to finance the 8th GEF cycle, running from mid-2022 to mid-2026. In total, pledges to the GEF-8 currently stand at USD 5.25 billion.

The thematic breakdown of the GEF-8 capital ,mid-2022 to mid-2026, is as follows

  • 36% will be dedicated to Biodiversity;
  • 16% will be dedicated to Climate Change;
  • 11.6% will be dedicated to Land Degradation;
  • 15% will be devoted to Toxic Waste and Chemicals Management;
  • 10.6% will be dedicated to International Water Protection.

Belgium intends to contribute 92.5 million euros to the 8th GEF, which corresponds to an increase of 54% compared to its contribution to the 7th GEF (60 million euros).

For two years (2022 and 2023), Belgium will have the honour of sitting on the GEF Council and representing the seven other member states of the Constituent Assembly of which it is a member. The latter includes Austria, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Slovakia, Turkey and Hungary.

Green Climate Fund (GCF)

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) was established within the framework of the UNFCCC (UN Climate Convention) in 2010 during COP16 in Cancun. In addition to the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and its funds, it is part of the financial mechanism of the Climate Convention. Indeed, under the Climate Convention, developed countries have made a commitment to helping developing countries meet their obligations under the Convention.

While the GEF exclusively funds climate mitigation, the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) and the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF), both of which are managed by GEF and fund climate adaptation and technology transfer, the GCF funds both adaptation and mitigation-related activities.

The GCF secretariat is headquartered in Songdo, South Korea.

The GCF aims to make a significant and ambitious contribution to the fight against climate change. By supporting developing countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and helping them adapt to the potential impact of climate change, it aims to achieve a paradigm shift towards low-carbon and climate-resilient development. A specific focus is on vulnerable developing countries, such as the least developed countries (LDCs), small island developing states (SIDS) and African countries.

The aim is to achieve a balance in investments in mitigation and adaptation (50% respectively). At least half of the funding for adaptation should go to the most vulnerable countries (LDCs, SIDS and African countries).

An initial fundraising phase (2014-2019) reached USD 10 billion. For the 2020-2023 period, donors have committed to provide a further USD 10 billion.

Belgian development cooperation contributed EUR 50 million to the GCF during the initial phase. For the period of the first recomposition (2020-2023), Belgium undertook to double its contribution to EUR 100 million.

Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol

The Montreal Protocol is an international treaty that provides for measures to protect the ozone layer. This treaty has been in force since 1989. This Protocol was developed within the framework of the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer. The Montreal Protocol is sometimes also referred to as the most successful international treaty, because of its good compliance and the good results already achieved.

The Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol should support developing countries in their obligations under the Protocol, through technical and financial co-operation. It was set up immediately after the Protocol's entry into force. The Fund is replenished every three years. A total of USD 4 billion has already been made available for this purpose. The available funds for the period 2018-2020 amount to USD 540 million, of which USD 6.7 million will be contributed by Belgium.