Main Issue

International efforts to address climate change adaptation are intensifying to prepare for rising seas, higher temperatures, worsening droughts, and other impacts that can affect water resources, crop yields, and the health of marine ecosystems. Adaptation measures are urgently needed to safeguard development gains and to address the needs of developing countries which are especially exposed to climate change impacts.

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely hampered most economic and social activities around the globe, unleashing food insecurity, unemployment, and displacement of people, among other concerns. The triple threats of climate change, biodiversity crisis, and COVID-19 have further strained people and communities who were already under stress. Systemic approaches that address these threats together are needed.

What We Do

The Global Environment Facility was the first global source of funds for climate adaptation, and continues to play a leading role in strengthening the resilience of developing countries as an operating entity of the financial mechanism to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

It channels support for climate adaptation mainly through the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) and the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF). These two funds have an important role of serving the Paris Agreement, which has established a global goal on adaptation to enhance adaptive capacity, strengthen resilience, and reduce vulnerability to climate change.

The GEF’s approach to adaptation is based on the recognition that climate change affects all aspects of human, social, and economic development. The GEF has supported the integration of adaptation measures into development plans, policies, programs, and projects at the regional, national, sub-national, and local levels. Innovation, partnership, and gender equality are also part of the GEF’s approach to adaptation and resilience support.

The LDCF and SCCF are helping countries to respond to the COVID-19 crisis by enabling them to invest in enhancing resilience, creating buffers, and applying nature-based solutions. Initiatives supported by the two funds are helping countries strengthen income diversification, build supply chain resilience, reinforce local food security, and improve access to basic services, and target support to critical ecosystems.

In the GEF-7 funding cycle, which runs from 2018 to 2022, the Global Environment Facility’s climate adaptation strategy emphasizes three objectives for the LDCF and SCCF:  

  • Reduce vulnerability and increase resilience through innovation and technology transfer for climate change adaptation. Effective responses to climate change require technological, social, and institutional innovation, which could be incremental or transformational in nature. The increasingly evident effects of climate change and variability require climate resilience technologies to be transferred, adapted, and deployed across the developing world. 
  • Mainstream climate change adaptation and resilience for systemic impact. Adaptation presents a cross-cutting, systemic challenge for ecosystems and livelihoods. The GEF is increasing its efforts to develop adaptation projects that address other environmental and sustainable development challenges as well. Examples include climate-resilient smallholder food systems; cities that deliver efficient, integrated, and sustainable development solutions; and clean and resilient energy solutions, particularly for vulnerable populations. 
  • Foster enabling conditions for effective and integrated climate change adaptation. The GEF is continuing to support countries as they develop National Adaptation Plans under the UNFCCC. These plans provide a framework that countries can refer to in integrating climate change adaptation considerations into long-term planning and processes.

The GEF-7 strategy also prioritizes enhancing complementarity with other climate finance providers, such as the Green Climate Fund, and innovative partnerships that can help address the growing demand for adaptation support.


Since 2001, the GEF has provided more than $2 billion in grant financing and mobilized close to $13 billion from other sources for approximately 440 adaptation projects in 120 countries, including all Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and 33 Small Island Developing States (SIDS). These projects are working to directly reduce the vulnerability of around 60 million people.

GEF-supported adaptation projects have also supported the improved management of more than 7 million hectares of productive and natural landscapes so they can more effectively withstand the effects of climate change. Climate adaptation investments from the GEF have also prepared the ground for large-scale climate adaptation through the provision of different forms of adaptation training to nearly 1 million people.

The LDCF and the SCCF have together financed 119 projects supporting the development of hydrometeorological and climate information services. They have also provided technical assistance to allow officials at regional, national, and sub-national levels to integrate climate and adaptation considerations in 2,500 policy-making and planning process across the most vulnerable sectors in developing countries.

Looking Ahead

We are continuing to provide nimble support to enable developing countries to address climate change adaptation needs in tandem with their efforts to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, in support of a green, blue, clean, and resilient recovery.

The GEF has been collaborating closely with the Green Climate Fund (GCF) through coordinated engagement, including joint country dialogues and programming. A number of projects are building on the outcomes of GCF readiness support to address identified priorities, and other GEF projects are expected to be scaled up with GCF support.

Looking ahead, the GEF-GCF partnership will be enhanced through the launch and implementation of the Long-Term Vision of Complementarity, including identification of joint initiatives and the facilitation of national investment planning. Building on this partnership, increased collaboration with other climate funds will be explored to continue to advance the global climate adaptation agenda.

The final year of the GEF-7 period (July 2021 to June 2022) coincided with the UNFCCC COP in Glasgow, United Kingdom, where climate change adaptation and the provision of climate finance were two priority subjects for discussion. The GEF is engaged in the UNFCCC process to help raise the level of climate ambition and support ongoing adaptation action and progress.

This time period also marks the start of the process to develop a new programming strategy for the LDCF and SCCF for GEF-8, which runs from July 2022 to June 2026. The strategy is expected to be endorsed at the May 2022 LDCF/SCCF Council meeting and to be launched in July 2022.