Hello everyone. It’s such a pleasure to be here talking with you. Thank you to the Wildlife Conservation Society, Rare, and Bloomberg Philanthropies for organizing this event.
Coastal ecosystems like coral reefs and mangrove forests inspire people around the world with their beauty and biodiversity. But they’re far more than just lovely to look at.
They support livelihoods and feed billions of people around the world.
They are key to climate adaptation and resilience.
They protect communities from storms, preventing flooding, and reducing damage.
They prevent erosion and improve water and air quality.
And they have the potential to play an important role in mitigating carbon emissions.
Though they occupy only about two percent of the ocean, coastal blue carbon ecosystems like seagrass beds and mangroves account for about half of the carbon sequestered in ocean sediments.
At the same time, these areas are being stressed like never before.
Climate change is causing our ocean to become warmer, higher, more acidic, and less productive.
At a time when one-third of fish stocks are already overfished, science tells us that climate change could decrease the catch potential of fisheries by up to 12 percent in some regions, including in coastal ecosystems.
These effects will disproportionately fall on the more than 500 million people who depend on small-scale fisheries.
To preserve the benefits of coastal ecosystems for communities that rely on them, we must step up our efforts to conserve and restore these resources as part of broader efforts to combat the climate crisis.
That’s one of the reasons the United States launched the Ocean Conservation Pledge. We encourage countries to join us in conserving or protecting 30 percent of waters under their national jurisdiction by 2030, as part of the global goal to conserve at least 30 percent of the ocean.
These efforts are particularly important for coral reefs, which are among the most biologically productive and diverse ecosystems in the world, despite covering less than one tenth of the ocean.
Reefs remain at great risk from climate change, ocean acidification, and other local anthropogenic threats.
However, coral reefs can be saved, they can recover, and they can be restored.
The United States is committed to efforts to scale solutions for coral reefs, and we intend to address threats against them with all the tools, assets, and commitment we can muster.
We also want to empower the women and men who depend on coastal ecosystems for food and their livelihoods.
That requires scaled-up investment.
As part of this goal, President Biden announced at COP26 his Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience, called “PREPARE.”
In September, the White House released the PREPARE Action Plan, which outlines how 19 federal agencies will help more than 500 million people in developing countries adapt to and manage the impacts of climate change by 2030.
We know that there is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach to climate adaptation.
The United States is committed to supporting coastal communities around the world as they build resilience and adapt to the climate impacts they face.
Together, we can ensure that communities, and the resources and ecosystems that sustain them, are equipped to adapt to a changing world.