NEWS

Fiji calls for urgent investment in coral reefs for climate resilience

Coral reefs are the most biologically diverse systems in the ocean, with one in every four marine species living in and around coral reefs. Over half a billion people derive food and income from these valuable ecosystems across 100 coral reef nations.
07 Nov 2021 16:10
Fiji calls for urgent investment in coral reefs for climate resilience
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama. Photo: Rosi Doviverata

Fiji Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, called for urgent investment in coral reef conservation as part of delivering positive ocean-climate solutions in support of people and nature.

Speaking at a side event organized by the Coral Reef Rescue Initiative during the UN Climate Change Conference, Mr Bainimarama said:

“Fiji has fought at these negotiations to engrain the ocean pathway into the processes of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Now, we must decide where that pathway leads. For the sake of our reefs, ocean, and the general habitability of the planet, we must cut carbon emissions. As that happens, we have to do the work of rebuilding the resilience of our reefs.

“We’ve seen that good reef management works. Well managed reefs are more resilient reefs. If we manage them properly and responsibly, and do what needs to be done to curb carbon emissions, these ecosystems can thrive.”

Coral reefs are the most biologically diverse systems in the ocean, with one in every four marine species living in and around coral reefs. Over half a billion people derive food and income from these valuable ecosystems across 100 coral reef nations.

However, according to the 2020 Status of Coral Reefs of the World report, 14 per cent of the world’s reefs have disappeared since 2009 due to climate change and a range of local impacts.

Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, renowned climate change expert and professor of marine studies at the University of Queensland, said:

“This is ‘Code Red’ not only for coral reefs, but for our planet. We need bold actions from COP26 to keep average global temperature rise to as close to 1.5°C as possible and to maintain a healthy and resilient ocean as a critical part of the climate solution; otherwise, we stand to lose as much as 70 per cent -90 per cent of corals by the end of the century.”

But there’s still hope. Some coral reefs are under less pressure from climate change—places where upwelling or currents mix cooler water into the ocean surface and hence they don’t heat as quickly.

A global analysis has revealed that almost 70 per cent of these climate-resilient coral reefs are found in seven countries: Cuba, Fiji, Indonesia, Madagascar, Philippines, Solomon Islands, and Tanzania. Through ocean currents that transport coral larvae and fish, these refuges of resilience could act as source reefs from which the world’s corals can bounce back in the future under more stabilized climate conditions.

Carol Phua, Coral Reef Rescue Initiative Lead at WWF said:

“We need to invest in bolstering the resilience of coral reefs with the strongest regeneration capacity to help secure the food, livelihoods, and wellbeing of millions of people who depend on these reefs for survival. We need to join up the climate and ocean finance agendas and drive significant private and public investments in nature-based solutions that can bring benefits to both people and nature.”

The Coral Reef Rescue Initiative, a global partnership of conservation and development organizations including Blue Ventures, CARE International, Rare, University of Queensland, Vulcan Inc., WCS, and WWF, is working with governments and communities in developing national to local strategies for dealing with environmental stresses, including climate change.

With a targeted, science-based approach, the partners are implementing a collaborative strategy that aims to improve the conservation and effective management of climate-resilient coral reefs while strengthening community resilience through diversified skills and livelihood opportunities to help build their economic capacity in the face of a rapidly changing climate.

One of the funding partners of this initiative is the Global Environment Facility (GEF), which made a significant multicountry investment to create global knowledge and capacity-building networks. This project will also facilitate co-financing opportunities and assist in mobilizing additional public and private investments in sustainable livelihoods for local communities.

Christian Severin, Coordinator, GEF International Waters, Senior Environmental Specialist said:

“The GEF recognizes that safeguarding the ocean and coastal ecosystems and the shared resources within them demands that we deploy a Ridge to Reef approach. This investment demonstrates scalable nature-based solutions to protect globally significant climate resilient coral reefs. Gender mainstreaming and the inclusion of the broader CSO community will be imperative to ensure sustainable blue economies that directly will be benefiting the communities that are dependent on healthy thriving reefs.”

The initiative’s work includes designing inclusive and equitable nature-based solutions in coral reef systems that support local actions that are women-led, given their agency and capacities in protecting ecosystems, ensuring sustainable production, and protecting food security and nutrition.

Karl Deering, Strategic Partnerships Lead at CARE International said:

“We must put human rights and good governance at the centre of the climate agenda. Improved governance will empower the most affected groups, including youth and women, allowing them to implement, monitor, and amplify interventions in coral reef systems.”



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