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The fate of coral reefs at stake as key UN talks begin in Egypt: New global coalition urges action to save reefs

A new coalition of inter-governmental organizations, international conservation organizations, and private foundations is converging in Egypt this week to send a message about the need for bold leadership to save coral reefs from near-extinction by mid-century.


Representatives from more than one hundred countries that are parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) are meeting to begin a two-year process to adopt a global framework for protecting biodiversity, including coral reefs, around the world.

A new partnership, which includes UN Environment, the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), WWF, The Nature Conservancy, Wildlife Conservation Society, Vulcan Inc., a Paul G. Allen company, The Ocean Agency, and the CBD Secretariat, will be unveiled in Sharm El Sheikh to raise awareness about the coral reef crisis and urge governments to take greater action.

“It’s clear to anyone who puts their head below the waves that the fate of the world’s coral reefs is hanging in the balance,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment. “At the moment these undersea explosions of color and life face an extremely bleak future. The expectations for this coalition could not be higher. Coral reef protection must become a global priority. Coral reefs need a better deal.”

Coral reefs provide food and livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people around the world, support more than a quarter of all marine life, and protect communities and coastlines from natural disasters—and if urgent action is not taken, they could be lost forever.

The latest IPCC report published in October 2018 predicts that even with the strongest actions required to stabilize global surface temperature to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, 70 to 90 percent of coral reefs will be lost in the next few decades. Further failure to take action on climate change will result in even greater losses. However, reducing non-climate threats has the potential to improve the recovery of the most resilient coral reefs after impacts like bleaching events, and to help conserve reefs as they face unprecedented thermal stress.

Climate change is not the only major threat that reefs face. Over-fishing, pollution and coastal development have all caused major losses of coral reefs over the last 30 years. Ambitious actions at the global, national and local levels, to deliver on meaningful policy targets for protecting coral reefs, are essential to saving coral reefs from collapse.

“I am delighted to see that the issue of coral reefs is receiving the attention it deserves. We are now approaching the 2020 horizon and need to sharpen the focus on strategies for effective coral reef conservation and to support people who depend on them,” said HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco. “The International Coral Reef Initiative General Meeting, which I will be hosting in Monaco this December, will be an important step and My wish is that it will lead to the adoption of a practical, effective, ambitious and realistic program of action.”

The new coral reef coalition to be announced at the CBD meeting this week is building an advocacy and communications approach to activate a global constituency to support bold action from leaders in government and the private sector.