Qui Nguyen
November 13, 2022

Open Letter Calling for Urgent Coral Reef Action Addressed to Leaders and Policy-Makers at COP27, Ocean20 and COP15

Dear Leaders and Policy-Makers,

The recent UN Ocean Conference ignited a new wave of ocean action and science clearly concluding it is now or never to safeguard the very existence of coral reefs. We have before us crucial opportunities to implement the policy, finance and science-based solutions needed to safeguard coral reefs.

The mandates and priorities of the 27th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27); the Ocean 20 (O20) agenda, an initiative under  Indonesia’s G20 Presidency; and the second part of the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) are inextricably linked to the health of coral reefs. Leaders and policymakers at these fora must take dramatic and immediate action to ensure the continued existence of coral reefs.

For more than one billion people, healthy coral reefs deliver sustainable food sources, livelihoods and income generation, protection from storm surge, medicinal properties, and significant cultural value. Coral reefs are essential to the security and climate resilience of many nations, including the most vulnerable nations on Earth. 

The interlinked crises of climate change and biodiversity loss have brought to centre stage the need for greater collaboration and action at the international level to conserve, manage, and restore coral reefs. Coral reefs exist in more than 100 countries and territories and, whilst they cover only 0.2% of the seafloor, they support at least 25% of marine species and provide ecosystem services valued up to $9.9 trillion annually.

The climate crisis and other local anthropogenic stressors, such as land and marine pollution, unsustainable tourism and development, overfishing and other harmful extractive activities, pose existential threats to coral reef survival. This threat combination has already resulted in the loss of more than half of the world’s coral reefs. The world lost 14 percent of the coral on its coral reefs between 2009 and 2018, and 90 percent of the world’s remaining coral reefs are threatened and may disappear completely by 2050. The window for protecting these ecosystems is closing rapidly.

However, there is still hope.

Recognising this decade is the last chance for a turning point in favour of coral reef survival, as representatives of the coral reef community, we urgently emphasise the need to take immediate action at scale. On the occasion of the G20 O20 Ocean Days, COP27 and the second part of COP15, world leaders and policy-makers must place coral reefs in the centre of the climate-biodiversity-ocean nexus; highlighting their value, the need to address their threats, and to invest in future solutions to prevent their extinction – instigating and driving change.

Given the significance of the world’s 20 largest economies and the G20’s role as a leading platform to accelerate achievement of the 2030 Agenda, G20 leaders are crucial in progressing action to prevent the catastrophic loss of coral reefs. With the services of coral reefs underpinning all six priority O20 themes, the G20 offers a connecting force between COP27 and COP15.

We call on the G20, parties of COP27 and COP15, and private sector leaders to urgently implement the policy change, increase the level of investment and leadership needed to ensure coral reef conservation, protection, and restoration commensurate with their value to people and the world economy.

To fast-track implementation efforts for coral reefs, the global alliance of the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), the Global Fund for Coral Reefs (GFCR) and the G20 Coral Research & Development Accelerator Platform (CORDAP) stand ready to build resilience, address local, regional and global loss drivers, rapidly increase protection, unlock further finance, and expand restoration.

We look forward to your leadership in safeguarding coral reef ecosystems and ensuring a sustainable, blue future.