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Jayne Jenkins

A new United Nations Multi-Partner Trust Fund for Coral Reefs

Jayne Jenkins

A new first of its kind fund to protect coral reefs was officially launched on the 16th September, on 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 $500 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.

Coral reefs are recognized as a critical ecosystem in the post-2020 Biodiversity Framework, and a recommendation by the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) calls for protection of coral reefs. According to the recently released fifth Global Biodiversity Outlook, coral reefs have “shown the most rapid increase in extinction risk of all assessed groups” due to human pressures, including climate change.

Inger Andersen, the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), said: “We have great opportunities for global collaboration on coral reef protection, management and restoration coming up with the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, and the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. We urge the global community to come together to capitalize this critical Fund in order to change the trajectory for coral reefs and save this precious ecosystem.”

The Global Fund for Coral Reefs has a dual focus: to facilitate the uptake of innovative financing mechanisms, including private market-based investments focused on coral reef conservation and restoration, and to unlock financing for coral reef-related climate adaptation through the Green Climate Fund, Adaptation Fund, and multilateral development banks.

The multi-party initiative to mobilise resources for the Fund includes public, philanthropic, and private actors, including the Paul G. Allen Family FoundationPrince Albert II of Monaco FoundationBNP ParibasAlthelia FundsUnited Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UNEP, and UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), putting a spotlight on unique partnerships towards coral protection and SDG 14, on ‘Life Below Water’. During the two-hour high-level event the fundraising efforts for the global fund were kickstarted and the innovative finance instrument geared at mobilizing resources for the resilience of corals, one of Earth’s richest sources of biodiversity and the communities that rely on them, was showcased.

His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco —one of the co-founders of the Fund—made a presentation of Monaco’s commitment to safeguarding oceans and the origin of the Fund concept at the Ocean week workshop in 2018, in which he said: “Coral reefs are marine ecosystems that are essential for the conservation of marine biodiversity. They are severely affected by climate change, and many of them are in danger of eventually disappearing. To address this situation, my Foundation and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation have taken the initiative to support the setting up of an international financial mechanism to marshal private and multilateral resources that will help to improve scientific knowledge and promote practical solutions to save these reefs. I urge anybody who wants to protect biodiversity to join our initiative.”

The Fund will play an important role in conserving and restoring these critical ecosystems, which are under threat around the world – a 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that even if we collectively manage to stabilize global surface temperatures to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, 70 to 90 per cent of coral reefs will be lost by the middle of this century.

The Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Achim Steiner, said: “Innovative finance for conservation is a central pillar of UNDP’s strategy. Without nature, many SDGs cannot be achieved. As the world’s first UN multi-partner trust fund for SDG14, the Global Fund for Coral Reefs will unleash the power of private sector financing for conservation while supporting countries to rebuild and enhance resilience to COVID-19 and other shocks.”

The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, the other co-founders, also presented their ongoing efforts to save coral reef ecosystems and the interest from the private philanthropy sector to build partnerships with the Member States and the private sector.

Source: UNEP Press Release

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