Australia contributes to Coral Triangle conservation

Date May 26, 2009

‘Bleached corals’    ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies ©

Australia will help fund conservation programs in the Coral Triangle region amid warnings its critical marine ecosystems face catastrophe if climate change goes unchecked.

Environment Minister Peter Garrett announced last week the government would contribute $2 million in funding for the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI), which aims to protect an area many scientists regard as the Amazon of the seas.

The Coral Triangle – taking in East Timor, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and the Solomon Islands – contains 30 per cent of the world’s coral reefs and sustains the lives of more than 100 million people.
If its ecosystems are allowed to fail, food security for tens of millions of people will disappear.

Garrett said the $2 million was the first phase of an ongoing plan to support the CTI, which is meeting on the sidelines of the World Ocean Conference in the Indonesian city of Manado.

‘This investment will focus on areas where we can make the greatest contribution by sharing our knowledge and directly supporting capacity building in marine biodiversity conservation, sustainable fisheries, protecting vulnerable marine species and community empowerment,’ he said.

An Australian-led study, released this week, paints a nightmarish picture of the region’s future if climate change goes unaddressed.

Unless the world achieves significant greenhouse gas reductions, the region’s reefs will be destroyed, poverty will increase, food security will plummet and coastal people will be forced to migrate inland or to other countries. Garrett joined leaders, ministers and officials from more than 70 countries to sign the Manado Oceans Declaration last week.

The pact is designed to protect oceans and coastal areas from the impact of climate change, and influence critical climate change talks in Copenhagen later this year.

It calls for cuts to ocean pollution, funding for sustainable development in poor countries, greater research into how climate change affects the ocean and the role oceans play in fighting climate change.

Coral Bleaching Great Barrier Reef –

But the non-binding declaration contained no specific commitments for funding or emissions targets and was criticised by some scientists as too weak to combat likely devastating sea rises and the destruction of key species.

However, Garrett called it a significant step forward.

‘This declaration signifies a global consensus,’ he said. ‘Ocean health is a priority and we have to take collective action and not ignore the effects of climate change on oceans and coasts.’


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