The 6th Global Environment Facility (GEF) Assembly officially opened at the Ariyana Convention Centre in the central city of Da Nang on June 27th.

Speaking at the opening session, Prime Minister, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, emphasised that the Earth, the home of mankind, is facing severe impacts from environmental degradation, pollution and climate change, thus, if no overall solutions are given, countries, nations and people will have to suffer tremendous consequences.

The country is focusing on implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs 2030) and its commitments at COP-21 on climate change, he said.

The PM also took this occasion to thank the GEF and its members and development partners, expressing his hope to continue receiving consultations, cooperation and assistance from the GEF.

He also suggested that the participants propose projects to cope with the root of environmental degradation, pollution and climate change, as well as urgent matters related to ocean plastic waste.

Global Environment Facility CEO and Chairperson Naoko Ishii told the opening session of its two-day assembly, sixth in series, that saw 1,500 delegates across the globe including top heads of UN agencies and multilateral financial institutions, scientists and business leaders in this Vietnamese port city on Wednesday that this was “a critical moment for the future of our planet and its people”.

Heads of island nations vulnerable to rising sea levels caused by melting ice, like the Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine and Guyana President David Granger also attended.

“For the past half century, we humans have made lots of progress in our societies. But we are putting huge pressure on the health of our planet,” Ishii said.

“Every day we are receiving wake-up calls from nature; massive loss of forests and lands, species being lost, pollution of air and water. And we are suffering from increasingly visible impacts of climate, coastal cities such as Da Nang are vulnerable, and so are small islands states.”

The GEF was created more than 25 years ago to help fight against these threats, she said.

Its assembly is the governing body of the GEF, a mechanism to provide grants for environment projects, and is composed of all 183 member countries.

Going down memory lane, Ishii said she remembered the days she spent in this port city 20 years ago.

“I was here in Da Nang 20 years ago, working on a World Bank urban project, focusing on second tier cities. I remember we were walking around the streets and asking people about their desire for safe drinking water. Well, 20 years have passed, and Da Nang is not a second tier city anymore. It is a major city with modern infrastructure and international links.”

Sounding an alarming note, the GEF chief said: “We continue to push the carrying capacity of our planet to its breaking point. Business as usual will guarantee disaster.”

“Scientists tell us that we have entered into the aanthropocene’ where humans are the dominant force changing the function of earth. So we, humans, must change.”

“We must transform our key economic systems; our food and land use system, our cities, our energy system, and move on to a circular economy. We must restore the ecosystems that are the very foundation for our societies and economies as we know them,” he said.

Still an optimistic Ishii said “there is a hope”.

“Up to the 2015 Paris climate agreement, there emerged a number of like-minded collations among business, cities, governments, academia and citizens, which played key role to Paris agreement.”

“And the sustainable development goals provide a good framework to hold us together to catalyze the necessary change.”

The GEF Assembly is meeting two months after governments, in a demonstration of confidence, approved a $4.1 billion replenishment of its new four-year investment cycle, known as GEF-7.