Today the GEF Council, the governing body of the Global Environment Facility, approved an unprecedented large work program within the fifth replenishment cycle of the GEF. With 40 stand alone projects and 9 programmatic approaches amounting to $516.40 million, this work program represents double the average submissions made since its creation 20 years ago.In addition, an impressive amount of $4.1 billion has been leveraged from GEF partners to further expand the reach of the program. As a result, 99 recipient countries will benefit from this work program alone, the largest number ever included in a single submission by the GEF.This work program is however, not only remarkable because of its size, but also due to the key innovations around which it has been designed.In terms of programmatic strategy, this work program addresses environment issues in the most holistic, comprehensive manner achieved so far, as evidenced by twenty one multi-focal area projects, joint GEF Agency (UNDP, UNEP, World Bank) partnerships in four projects/programs submitted and four initiatives combining the GEF resources with those of other environment related trust funds. Comparative advantages of each partner, are assembled in this most effective program implementation arrangement ever put together by the GEF.For example, with the Marine and Coastal Protected Areas project, Brazil will significantly increase protection of its marine area by addressing unsustainable fishing practices, discharge of pollutants and industrial impact in an integrated manner. In addition, this project includes financing mechanisms to generate revenues for the sustainable management of these protected areas through climate change related mechanisms (Blue Carbon) and payment for ecosystem services.This work program includes many other large-impact projects around the world. For example in China, the Main Streams of Life-Wetland Protected Area System Strengthening for Biodiversity Conservation will create a strong national system for managing 48,962,400 hectares of wetlands, and protect an additional 1.7 million hectares containing 50 unprotected threatened species.Similarly, the impact of Sustainable Forest Management (SFM/REDD+) projects will in this work program reach proportions never achieved before. Through the involvement of indigenous peoples and local communities these projects alone will save over 3 million tons of CO2 emissions in combating deforestation and forest degradation, while creating 2.5 million hectares of new protected areas, and implement sustainable management regimes across1.3 million hectares more.One of the most innovative International Waters initiatives in this work program is the "Blue Forests" project. Research has recently found coastal habitats like mangroves, sea grass beds, coral reefs, and salt marshes (referred to as Blue Forests) to trap more carbon per unit area than terrestrial habitats. For the first time their true worth as key assets in environmental management has been recognized. The objective of this project is to develop methodologies to estimate carbon trapped by coastal and marine systems as well as to demonstrate their economic value.This most ambitious work program reflects a holistic approach to environmental challenges, is based on community and indigenous people participation, maximization of impact through strong partnerships and financial leverage, all of which are a direct result from the string of key reforms that the GEF has carried out during the last few years.(Original story: