Global Coral Reef Fund approves  million for resilience
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Global Coral Reef Fund approves $25 million for resilience

Geneva, July 10, 2024 – Amid growing threats to coral ecosystems and the recent announcement of a fourth global coral bleaching event, the Global Fund for Coral Reefs (GFCR) Board has announced more than $25 million in additional grants to scale up resilience efforts in coral reef countries. The announcements include a new blended finance program for the Red Sea in Egypt, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Without large-scale collective action, scientists estimate that 90 percent of remaining coral reefs could be lost by 2050, with devastating consequences for the communities and economies they support. To address this crisis, the GFCR Coalition has created a robust portfolio of innovative, market-based solutions spanning 23 countries to protect critical coral reef sanctuaries, the most resilient reef ecosystems on Earth, said Peter Bryant, Builders Initiatives Oceans Program Director and GFCR Board Member. The new GFCR announcements, representing an increase of more than $25 million in resilience-based actions, will help drive a sustainable blue transition for local economies and unlock greater flows of conservation funding for generations to come.

The new GFCR program, the Egyptian Red Sea Initiative, aims to enhance protection for one of the world’s longest-living and most resilient reef ecosystems. Supported by a major financial commitment from USAID, the initiative, in partnership with the Government of Egypt and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), will establish the groundbreaking Egypt Coral Reef Fund to leverage up to US$50 million in private and public funds for sustainable blue economic transformation and conservation efforts. Additional market solutions to be supported by the coral reef business incubator include recycling organic waste for coastal agriculture, aquaculture to support ecosystem restoration, and mooring systems to avoid damage to reefs by boats.

“The Egypt Red Sea Initiative is a groundbreaking blended-finance collaboration to protect Egypt’s coral reefs. USAID, in partnership with the Government of Egypt, international and local organizations, and private and nonprofit donors and investors, is committed to protecting the vital Red Sea ecosystem and the communities it supports, while promoting economic growth and sustainable development for the Egyptian people,” said Sean Jones, Mission Director for USAID Egypt.

New announcements from the GFCR Board also include increased funding for the Mesoamerican Region (MAR), country programs in Indonesia and the Philippines, and an initiative on Pemba Island in Zanzibar.

In the Philippines, home to the world’s third largest coral reef area, a GFCR-supported program led by Blue Alliance Marine Protected Areas has already unlocked funding from catalytic donors and impact investors to launch an impact loan for marine protected areas (MPAs). The new GFCR support will scale implementation to cover over 100 MPAs covering 80,000 hectares of significant coral refugia and increase the resilience of over two million coastal community members. The funding increase will expand reef-positive business solutions including eco-tourism, community-based aquaculture, and sustainable fisheries, incorporated into the MPA funding strategy of the programs.

In Indonesia, located in the heart of the Coral Triangle, additional support from the GFCR will help provide sustainable long-term financing for effective MPA management and access to finance for reef-positive businesses. With a focus on supporting local women, the increased funding aims to enable the development of at least 10 additional reef-positive businesses, including community-run seaweed hatcheries and processing plants, eco-tourism ventures and sustainable aquaculture.

Innovations that support accelerating and scaling models for effective MPA management that connect with coral-positive business are key to supporting Indonesia’s Blue Economy vision. Our vision is based on protecting coastal and marine ecosystems that provide food security, community livelihoods and support national development, said Meizani Irmadhiany, Senior Vice President and Executive Director of Konservasi Indonesia. GFCR support provides catalytic funding to strengthen effective management and financial flows to MPAs, creating innovative models to scale impact through support in sectors such as responsible tourism, seaweed development and fisheries that encourage long-term protection of critical coral reef habitats.

In the MAR, home to the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere, GFCR funds the MAR+Invest program, which aims to enhance the resilience of reefs and communities through blended financing, as well as address local drivers of ecosystem degradation, such as increasing pressure from tourism development, the spread of sargassum, and expanding agriculture and aquaculture.

Currently in its second phase, MAR+Invest partners are scaling a regional portfolio of market-based solutions, including ecotourism, sustainable aquaculture, sargassum management, and scaling circular economy practices in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. These solutions are key to achieving the program’s 2030 goals: 60,000 hectares of coral reefs under improved management; three million community members with improved resilience; and $60 million in public and private financing.

“The Global Coral Reef Fund has played a key role in supporting MAR+Invest’s transformative efforts to protect coral reefs and the communities that depend on them in the Mesoamerican Reef region. By addressing critical financing gaps and promoting innovative market-based solutions, MAR+Invest aims to protect these critical ecosystems while strengthening local livelihoods,” said Mara Jos Gonzlez, Executive Director of the Mesoamerican Reef Fund. “We sincerely thank GFCR for their invaluable support in developing a blended finance mechanism in the region. This initiative promotes market-based solutions that generate income and positively impact the health of our reefs, supporting sustainable development and increasing the resilience and well-being of the largest coral reef in the Atlantic Ocean.”

New funding support was also announced for the Blue Alliance initiative on Pemba Island in Zanzibar, home to 50% of Tanzania’s coral reefs and a wealth of threatened marine species. The North Pemba Channel Conservation Area Blended Finance Program leverages local businesses to protect coral reefs and promote inclusive prosperity. The initiative will enable the development of seven reef-beneficial business solutions that contribute to the sustainable financing and management of 27,000 hectares of marine protected areas. The program’s 2030 targets include the restoration of approximately 4,200 hectares of coral reefs, support for at least 15,000 fishermen and coastal communities, and at least US$15 million in financing from commercial impact investors through the blended finance facility.

Using US$25 million to boost resilience efforts in coral countries is an incredible boost, especially for Egypt’s newly launched programme in the Red Sea. I visited the Red Sea and Ras Mohammed National Park in October 2022 with UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Ellie Goulding in the run-up to COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh. The experience of seeing such a healthy reef was a defining and moving moment for all of us, knowing that it will almost certainly disappear if we do not invest in the resilience of this and other similar ecosystems, said Leticia Carvalho, Head of the Marine and Freshwater Division of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and Co-Chair of the GFCR Executive Board.

As we approach the 2025 UN Oceans Conference, we need to wake up to the urgency and recognize what is at stake: the functional extinction of an entire ecosystem. And the chance to be the first generation to save one. Urgent and scaled collective action must be mobilized, she added.

As the leading global coral finance instrument, GFCR aims to increase the protection and resilience of at least three million hectares of the world’s coral reefs by 2030 – representing 25 percent of the Coral Reef Breakthrough target and about 12 percent of the Earth’s remaining reefs. When fully capitalized, the GFCR Coalition will seek to leverage up to $3 billion in public and private finance for marine ecosystems, coastal communities and economies.

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