Sunday, January 21, 2018

Coral Reefs 'at Make or Break Point', UN Environment Head Says

Erik Solheim cites ‘huge decline’ in world’s reefs but says shift from coal and new awareness of plastic pollution are good news.

Estimates vary but coral reefs are thought to sustain the lives of about one billion people. (Photograph Credit: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
The battle to save the world’s coral reefs is at “make or break point”, and countries that host them have a special responsibility to take a leadership role by limiting greenhouse gas emissions, plastic pollution and impacts from agriculture, the head of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has said.

Speaking to the Guardian after the launch of International Coral Reef Initiative’s international year of the reef, Erik Solheim said he expected governments to take their efforts on reef protection in 2018 beyond symbolic designation.

“We expect governments to step up to concrete actions,” Solheim said.

To kick off ​ that effort, Fiji’s prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, has announced new protections ​for large portions of the Great Sea Reef, by nominating it a Ramsar site.  The Ramsar Convention ​ gives protection to wetlands – including coral reefs – that are important for the conservation of global biodiversity and for sustaining human life.

Announcing the nomination, Bainimarama said it was shocking that this might be the last generation to witness the beauty of coral reefs.

“Today I appeal to every single person on Earth to help us.  We must replace the present culture of abuse with a culture of care,” he said.

Solheim ​said another significant ​ step was ​taken this year when Belize imposed a moratorium on oil exploration and extraction in its waters – a move the Belizean prime minister said was ​a first for a developing country​.

“We have seen a huge decline in the reefs and that is absolutely serious,” Solheim said.  “But there are also signs of change.  We see now a huge global shfit from coal to solar and wind and that is very good news for our efforts to reduce the effects of climate change.

“And we have seen a huge shift in the awareness of the problem of plastic pollution,” he said, noting there have been many moves around the world to ban various forms of plastic pollution.

Solheim said that while the decline of reefs was a global problem that needed coodinated action, host countries ​had a special responsibility.

Read more at Coral Reefs 'at Make or Break Point', UN Environment Head Says

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