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World Oceans Day 2024

Out of sight cannot be out of mind when it comes to coral reefs

Image provided by UNEP

Leticia Carvalho

Head of Marine and Freshwater, UNEP

The 2024 World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Risks Report counts extreme weather events and critical changes to Earth systems as the greatest concerns facing the world over the next decade.

Global coral bleaching event

In April, an announcement was made by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and our UN Environment Programme partner, International Coral Reef Initiative, that the ocean is experiencing its fourth-ever bleaching event.

Coral reefs across 54 countries and all three ocean basins — from my place of work in Kenya on the Indian Ocean to my home in Brazil on the Atlantic and the Pacific — are turning a ghostly white from expelling the colourful algae that call them home.

Threats to reefs have led to
the loss of 50% since 1970.

Reversing threats to reefs

Threats to reefs have led to the loss of 50% since 1970. Reefs harbour 25% of marine life, upon which a billion people depend. Protecting our reefs will require meeting the Paris Agreement on GHG emissions, combined with rapid acceleration in research and funding. 

Recent reports suggest that $US175 billion per year is needed to achieve SDG 14 (on Life Below Water) by 2030. However, according to WEF, less than $US10 billion was invested between 2015 and 2019. We can reverse this trend by supporting the Global Fund for Coral Reefs (GFCR); the only fund dedicated to Life Below Water.  

The GFCR has mobilised over $US200 million in public and private funding to forge a reef-positive pipeline across developing nations. Now holding a robust portfolio of innovative, market-based solutions, GFCR’s coming years hold a critical opportunity for scale and achievement of globally agreed biodiversity targets through conservation of 3M HA of coral reefs.

Join the coalition to safeguard ocean health

I urge state donors, philanthropies and investors to take action for coral by joining the GFCR Coalition. With a focus on coral ecosystems that display resilience to the impacts of climate change,GFCR’s science-based, blended-finance approach offers hope to help safeguard one of Earth’s most valuable ecosystems for future generations.

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