Over 500 million people around the world rely on coral reefs for food security, economic well-being.
Goods and services like tourism and fishing derived from coral reefs have an estimated value of US$375 billion a year.
New Delhi: In a stark warning, UNESCO has said that the world’s best-known Coral Reefs could be extinct by the end of the century because of increasing global warming and habitat destruction.
UNESCO, which is behind an emergency bid to protect these natural marine wonders, 29 of which are on the agency’s protected World Heritage list.
“Our oceans are getting warmer because of increasing global carbon dioxide emissions” agency said.
The agency also noted that most coral reefs face many other pressures, from pollution to overfishing and habitat destruction.
“Global warming means that local reef conservation practices are no longer enough to protect the world’s most important reef ecosystems. But a healthy, resilient reef can regenerate after a bleaching incident and survive,” explained Fanny Douvere, head of UNESCO’s Marine Programme.
“Climate change is today the biggest threat to coral reefs. Under a business-as-usual scenario, nearly 90 percent of the 29 World Heritage-listed coral reefs are expected to severely bleach twice-per-decade by 2040” It said.
UNESCO’s plan, along with partners, is to reduce these threats and to strengthen the sustainable management of fragile marine reefs by supporting local communities.
In all, the agency’s plan aims to work with 19 World Heritage-listed reefs that are found in developing countries, with financing from the Global Funds for Coral Reefs.
Global fund for coral reefs was launched on 16 September, 2020 during the sidelines of the 75th Session of the UN General Assembly, with a coalition of partners convening to mobilise resources to make coral reefs more resilient.
The Global Fund for Coral Reefs seeks to raise and invest USD $625 million in coral reef conservation over the next 10 years.
The Fund, a finance instrument that blends private and public funding, will also support businesses and finance mechanisms that improve the health and sustainability of coral reefs and associated ecosystems while empowering local communities and enterprises.
Found in over 100 countries and territories globally, coral reefs support a quarter of all marine life up to 1 million species. They also provide at least half a billion people with jobs and food while protecting coastlines from storms and flooding.
Despite their immense value and immense vulnerability, the protection of coral reefs has been underfunded on a global scale.
The development builds on the success of UNESCO’s Resilient Reef Initiative which launched in 2018.
For the past four years, researchers have worked on four World Heritage reef pilot sites in Australia, Belize, New Caledonia and Palau.
The initiative demonstrated that local pressures can be reduced by empowering local communities and helping them to adapt their income and livelihoods to our changing climate.
Resilient Reefs is a global, six-year, approximately USD$10.5 million programme established by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation in collaboration with the Nature Conservancy’s Reef Resilience Network, Columbia University’s Center for Resilient Cities and Landscapes, Resilient Cities Catalyst, UNESCO and AECOM.
The Initiative provides capacity building, technical expertise and financial support to an initial four pilot marine World Heritage sites to assist local management and communities to change the way they understand climate risks and vulnerability and design site-based resilience strategies.
Additionally, the Initiative has reserved seed funding to help sites move rapidly from planning to implementing these solutions.
In the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) data, also confirmed that States must reduce carbon emissions drastically, to meet the targets under the 2015 Paris Agreement.
The report suggested that to save coral reefs, the governments around the world must act on two fronts: Firstly, swiftly and drastically lower greenhouse emission while simultaneously effectively reducing local stresses to reefs such as from land-based sources of pollution and overfishing.
It said without effective action on both fronts in the next 20 years, we could be facing a world without functional coral reefs.
The report maintained that the effect of losing and entire ecosystem would be devastating.
A quarter of all marine life depends on coral reefs, and over 500 million people around the world rely on coral reefs for food security, economic well-being, and cultural identity. Goods and services—like tourism and fishing—derived from coral reefs have an estimated value of US$375 billion a year.
Coral reefs are also critical for protecting coastal communities from wave action, erosion, and tropical storms. The world needs coral reefs, and decisive action will help ensure that we do not face a future without them.