A coalition of 45 countries pledged on Tuesday to make $12 billion (more than R230 billion) available for the conservation and restoration of coral reefs. Coral reefs are threatened worldwide by the impact of climate change.
The “Coral Reef Breakthrough” was announced by a network of countries representing three quarters of the world’s coral reefs. This includes a pledge to double the area of coral reefs under protection from the current estimate of around 60,000 square kilometers and restore around 10,500 square kilometers.
The plan, announced by the International Coral Reef Initiative, also includes an undertaking to secure $12 billion in investments by 2030 from government and private sources.
“This investment enables more effective coral reef management, including water quality management, coastal management and local and regional regulations,” the group announced.
A 2020 study estimated that $174.5 billion per year would be needed to fill the gap in funding for ocean conservation.
“This initiative is important and timely,” David Booth, a professor of marine ecology at the Sydney University of Technology told AFP. “Twelve billion dollars is, however, a very small amount to make an impact worldwide. It will have to be used very judiciously.”
Restoration of the coral reefs “will be impossibly expensive on the scale needed to save coral reefs”, he added, indicating that climate change is the clear driver of coral reef loss. “Initiatives to limit the use of fossil fuels are most important for coral reefs.”
Coral reefs are under pressure worldwide due to record high sea temperatures.
Marine heat waves – episodes of abnormally high water temperature, have become more frequent and intense. Oceans have absorbed 90% of the excess heat caused by human activity since the beginning of the industrial age, scientists say. This excess heat continues to increase as greenhouse gases build up in the Earth’s atmosphere, mainly due to oil, gas and coal being burned. Warmer water causes the coral reefs to expel the algae, which live in symbiosis with them. The algae provide nutrients to the coral reefs and give them color. This bleaching process leads to coral reef death if the temperature remains too high for the algae to return. It destroys the ecosystems that rely on coral reefs.
Mass bleaching has already been reported in Florida this year, with concerns that the worst is yet to come because the El Niño seasonal weather pattern is frequently linked to bleaching incidents.