South Pole announced as a winner of GEF Challenge Program for Adaptation Innovation


Seed funding to support coral reef insurance, supply-chain resilience, and other climate risk remedies for entrepreneurs, food producers, cities, local communities.

Nespresso, South Pole, MIT’s Environmental Solutions Initiative, and Willis Towers Watson were among those announced today as winners of the Global Environment Facility’s inaugural Challenge Program for Adaptation Innovation, a new competition supporting private sector remedies for climate risk in developing countries.

The GEF Challenge Program for Adaptation Innovation supports scalable, bankable solutions that can help industries and communities cope with the adverse impacts of climate change, and build economies that are resilient to changing weather and water patterns. More than 400 submissions were received following a call for proposals in August. Half of the funding will be used to support initiatives in least developed countries.

“We were reassured by the many good ideas received about how to strengthen climate resilience in developing countries,” said GEF CEO and Chairperson Naoko Ishii. “As a member of the Global Commission on Adaptation, this is an issue close to my heart, one which is in great need for innovation and scaling up. I very much look forward to seeing the results of these new GEF-supported projects, which will pave the way to increase private investment for climate resilience in multiple markets.”

The nine winning project concepts were proposed by companies and other organizations working to increase climate resilience in developing countries. They include plans to develop coral reef insurance products in Asia and the Pacific; help provide capital and financial literacy of farmers to invest in climate resilience of coffee and cacao supply chains; deploy drones and other technology to inform better decision-making on climate risks; and help cities improve their creditworthiness, issue green bonds, and ramp up asset recycling. GEF partner agencies, who will work with the companies to develop the projects, include the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Corporación Andina de Fomento (CAF), Conservation International, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), UN Development Program (UNDP), UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), and the World Wildlife Fund Inc. (WWF-US).

The winning sponsors who have their proposals approved will be eligible for between $500,000 and $2 million in seed funding, contingent upon final project proposal review and approval. The total of $10 million in financing from this Challenge Program will come from the GEF-administered Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) and Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF).

The GEF supports climate adaptation efforts mainly through the LDCF and SCCF. Since their inception in 2001, the GEF has provided over $1.5 billion in grant financing and mobilized more than $7 billion from other sources for 330 adaptation projects in 130 countries.

Statements from selected winning sponsors:
“Nespresso is thrilled about the partnership with GEF, which will allow the development of innovative solutions for coffee smallholders in complex contexts. Ensuring climate change adaptation and mitigation is key to protect livelihoods in coffee growing communities, now and in the long-term. Through this program we believe that we will create tangible changes on the ground.” – Daniel Weston, General Counsel & Global Head of CSV, Nespresso

“Clarmondial is proud to support Nespresso mobilize funding for their AAA Sustainable Quality program. The grant from the GEF will allow greater outreach to smallholder coffee farmers in African countries, fostering climate smart production practices.” – Tanja Havemann, Co-Founder and Director of Clarmondial

“GEF Challenge Program funding will enable us to invest in small businesses with a revolving fund mechanism, and thereby catalyze private investments for climate adaptation in sustainable landscapes at scale.” – Martin Stadelmann, Director of Funds and Platforms at South Pole

“Working with WWF Pacific and alongside other partners, we intend to deploy the analytical tools and financial products of the insurance industry and broader financial services sector to foster effective climate risk management in coastal communities of Papua New Guinea and Fiji. Together, raising awareness of the risks from climate change, and building capacity around solutions, are critical foundations of the economic empowerment required to underpin effective and sustainable adaptation strategies, and we are thrilled to have been selected to build out a comprehensive proposal to implement our action-oriented ideas.” – Simon Young, Senior Director, Capital, Science & Policy Practice at Willis Towers Watson

“Small and medium sized enterprises are at the front line in helping developing countries build their climate resiliency and adapt to climate change. However, lack of investor knowledge on adaptation investing and perceptions of high risk impede these SMEs from accessing the financing they need. GEF Challenge Program support for this ‘Adaptation Accelerator’ will help to bridge this gap by providing training, investment and market access to adaptation-focused SMEs in two emerging economies, Madagascar and Liberia in a highly replicable manner.” – Agustin Silvani, SVP and Chief Investment Officer at Conservation International Ventures

“The Climate Technology Centre & Network delivers tailored technology assistance to developing countries as they strive to meet their Nationally Determined Contributions and Sustainable Development Goals. We look forward to collaborating with the GEF to help mid-size cities access innovative financing for climate adaptation technologies. This pilot initiative carries high potential for replication in other cities around the world.” – Rose Mwebaza, Director of the Climate Technology Centre & Network (CTCN)

“This investment will support local communities in monitoring, protecting, restoring and pioneering sustainable uses of the forest as a new source of income and security. The results of this project will be applied in Mocoa and then extended to other locations in Colombia and Latin America.” – Maria Zuber, VP of Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

The project concepts selected and eligible for support subject to final approvals are:

  • Reviving high quality coffee to stimulate climate adaptation (Nespresso, Clarmondial with IUCN)
  • Landscape Climate Resilience Fund (South Pole with WWF-US)
  • Piloting Innovative Financing for Adaptation Technologies (CTCN with UNIDO)
  • UAVs/Drones for Equitable Climate Change Adaptation (MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative with CAF)
  • Financial tools for small scale fishers in Melanesia (Willis Towers Watson with WWF-US)
  • Blended finance facility for climate resilience in coffee and cacao value chains (UNEP)
  • Public-Private Partnership for Coral Reef Insurance (Asian Development Bank)
  • Adaptation Accelerator Program (Conservation International)
  • Resilience for Peace, Stability, Food and Water Sanctuary Innovation Grant Program (UNDP)

Media Contacts

Robert Bisset in Madrid

Laura MacInnis in Washington, DC +1 202 473 6978

Nadia Käkhonen, Head of Communications, South Pole

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