Incredible recognition by world leaders on the imperative for coral conservation and recovery

Close up of wooden sculpture sitting on a table in front of a man and woman who are standing the background
The Nature Baton in front of Jason Momoa as he was recognized as the UN Advocate for Life Below Water.

The 2022 UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal was a huge success for coral reef ecosystems. Global leaders from nations, industry, and non-governmental organizations came together to highlight and commit to coral conservation and recovery. As part of its journey around the world, the Nature Baton accompanied Jason Momoa, the UN Environment Programme's Advocate for Life Below Water, to the Ocean Conference. The Nature Baton, created by the visual artist Tania Kovats, whose work focuses on how art can address environmental challenges, is a symbol of global cooperation to promote the ocean's well-being. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, the baton is "is a metaphor for the journey ocean champions have taken this year from Brest to Nairobi for the UN Environment Assembly, to Palau for the Our Oceans Conference, and for World Environment Day in Stockholm, on the road to Lisbon [Portugal]."

International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI)

NOAA featured prominently at different events and sessions at the conference and at side events located at the Reef Action Hub*. For example, the International Coral Reef Initiative (chaired by the United States of America and represented by NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program and Department of State) organized a High-level Breakfast event to present the Plan of Action 2021-2024 to world leaders known for their unwavering support of coral reefs.Throughout the morning, engaging and driving discussions highlighted critical actions needed for coral reefs, setting the scene for ICRI's activities throughout 2022 and 2023 and seeking synergies for the Plan of Action's implementation.

Five people hold up a white banner with the acronym ICRI on it
His Serene Highness Prince Albert II (second from right) transfers the ICRI banner on behalf of the Principality of Monaco, Australia, and Indonesia to the United States during the UN Ocean Conference, June 2022.

Global Fund for Coral Reefs (GFCR)
Five people laughing and smiling at a camera
International Coral Reef Initiative colleagues pose for the camera along with His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco and the Right Honorable Baroness Patricia Scotland of Asthal Queens Council.

In addition to being the co-chair of the Secretariat of ICRI, NOAA currently holds the position of co-chair to the advisory board for the Global Fund for Coral Reefs (GFCR). NOAA's Coral Program Director, Jennifer Koss, represents ICRI and NOAA at these meetings. At the conference, GFCR in partnership with ICRI, convened a variety of global leaders, top scientists, key stakeholders, and local champions to increase action to save coral reef ecosystems at its Reef Action Hub. While there, Builders Vision and Bloomberg Philanthropies committed US$18 million to the Global Coral Reef Fund. The announcement was made on June 28 at the Sustainable Blue Economy Investment Forum, hosted by the governments of Kenya and Portugal.

Coral Research & Development Accelerator Platform (CORDAP)
Photo collection. Top: two women smile at the camera. Center: Three people stand next to each other, smiling at the camera. Bottom: presenters from UN Decade for Ocean Science
Top: NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program Director, Jennifer Koss, and Assistant Administrator for NOAA National Ocean Service, Nicole LeBoeuf at the Champions #ForCoral reception. Center: Michelin 3-star chef Ángel León, UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for the Ocean Peter Thomson, and Coral Program Director, Jennifer Koss, at the Champions #ForCoral . Bottom: UN Decade for Ocean Science session presenters on the last day of the conference.

Additionally, NOAA CRCP is vice-chair of the Initiative Governance Committee of the Coral Research & Development Accelerator Platform (CORDAP). This is a recent initiative of the G20 (the group of 20 countries that work together for international economic cooperation) to fast-track research and development solutions to save the world's corals. At the Champions #ForCoral event, co-hosted by CORDAP, GFCR, ICRI, and the UN Environment Programme on June 30, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and the current NOAA Administrator, Dr. Rick Spinrad, National Ocean Service Assistant Administrator Nicole LeBoeuf, and many others celebrated the official launch of CORDAP and the announcement of a new partnership between CORDAP and GFCR to accelerate global innovation in coral reef restoration.

NOAA also co-led a session on the UN Decade for Ocean Science on the last day of the conference, which brought together a diverse set of panelists that showcased and encouraged discussion of the linkages between coral restoration efforts and the Ocean Decade. The Ocean Decade is focused on scientific solutions, including coral restoration.

The UN Ocean Conference and associated coral sessions at the Reef Action Hub were an incredible affirmation of the increased need for global coral reef conservation as well as the commitment of nations, private industry, nongovernmental organizations, and citizen groups to do their part. This is an important and exciting time to work on global coral conservation efforts, and NOAA is a key piece of it all as a global leader in providing sound science and management strategies for coral conservation and recovery efforts.

*Reef Action Hub-During the conference, the Global Fund for Coral Reefs, in collaboration with ICRI, and with support from the Mirpuri Foundation, hosted the “Reef Action Hub”: featuring coral-focused side events, including workshops and roundtable meetings, that aimed to accelerate action for coral reefs and showcase solutions. The Hub became a central location #ForCoral throughout the conference and welcomed heads of state, ministers and ambassadors to local practitioners, youth representatives and key stakeholders.

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