A coalition of 45 countries vowed on Tuesday to raise $12 billion for the conservation and restoration of coral reefs worldwide, imperiled by the impacts of climate change.
The initiative, known as the “Coral Reef Breakthrough,” announced by the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), aims to double the protected reef area, currently estimated at about 60,000 square kilometers, and restore approximately 10,500 square kilometers. This commitment, involving nations representing 75% of the world’s coral reefs, seeks to secure $12 billion in both public and private investments by 2030.
“This investment will enable more effective management of coral reefs, including water quality management, coastal management, and local and regional regulations,” stated the group.
However, this figure falls significantly short of the $174.5 billion annually, as per a 2020 study, required to cover the funding gap for overall ocean conservation efforts.
Despite constituting just 0.2% of global marine funds, coral reefs host at least a quarter of marine flora and fauna. Over 500 million people rely directly on them for fishing, tourism, and livelihoods, as reefs shield coastlines from erosion.
Coral reefs face unprecedented stress worldwide due to rising sea temperatures, with marine heatwaves becoming more frequent and intense. Oceans have absorbed 90% of the excess heat generated by human activity since the industrial era. High temperatures can cause stressed corals to expel symbiotic algae, leading to their demise and devastating dependent ecosystems.
Between 2009 and 2018, warming and pollution destroyed 14% of the world’s coral reefs. While coral bleaching can recover if weather conditions improve, frequent marine heatwaves pose significant threats. This year, massive bleaching events were recorded in Florida, and concerns rise as the El Niño weather phenomenon associated with such events looms.