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UQ, World Bank & partners aim to unlock wealth streams in East Asia-Pacific

The natural wealth of coastlines in the East Asia-Pacific is set to be unlocked for coastal communities, under  an agreement between The University of Queensland (UQ) and the World Bank signed in Washington DC today (6 November).

UQ’s Global Change Institute (GCI) will co-ordinate the new $10.4 million Capturing Coral Reef & Related Ecosystem Services (CCRES) project, aiming to unlock sustainable income streams for people of the region.

Prestigious partners on the project include Cornell University, The University of California (Davis) and the Global Environment Facility, plus the University of the Philippines, De La Salle University in the Philippines, World Wildlife Fund US and Currie Communications.

The agreement was signed by UQ President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Peter Høj, and World Bank Director of Operations, Dr Ethel Sennhauser.

GCI Director, Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg said understanding the economic and cultural value of the region’s coastal assets would support the development of eco-friendly businesses, toolkits and spatial planning.

“Healthy coastal ecosystems are essential for the livelihoods, food security, safety, wellbeing and cultural identity of hundreds of millions of people in low-lying coastal areas across the East Asia-Pacific. 

“More than 450 million of them already live below the poverty line, and the livelihoods of many are being further threatened by degradation of coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass beds, due to pollution, unsustainable development, overfishing and climate change.

“Unlocking the economic and social value of these ecosystems gives an incentive to local communities, businesses and policy makers to preserve them (and their services) for future generations.” Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said. 

“We believe that new public private partnerships that get all parties around the table are centrally important for solving problems.”

Nazir Foead, Conservation Director for World Wildlife Fund Indonesia believes calculating the economic value of coastal resources has widespread benefits.

Capturing the benefits that coastal resources provide people both locally and globally can make the case for science-based ocean stewardship among policy makers and the private sector,” she said.

The World Bank’s Senior Coastal and Marine Specialist in the East Asia-Pacific Region, Dr Marea Hatziolos, said the wealth of natural capital had the potential to be a major driver of inclusive green growth in the region.

“There’s enormous potential if we can transform the development and stewardship of coastal areas by translating ecological value into financial terms for local stakeholders and policy makers,” Dr Hatziolos said.

“We especially need better resource governance regimes, measures to adequately value the environment for current and future generations when calculating economic benefits, and good scientific information to inform decision-making and trade-offs.”

The $10.4 million package includes $2 million from UQ, and today’s signing further embeds the University as a leader in expertise in coastal and marine research and management.

Professor Høj said: “The intellectual fire power of some of UQ’s top researchers is the real contribution we are making.”

“What matters is the value of the outcomes we will deliver for some of the world’s poorest people, and for the regional and global environment.

“The achievements of this project will stem from a long-term partnership between UQ and the World Bank and Global Environment Facility, and from the reputation of researchers like Ove Hoegh-Guldberg – who contribute to UQ’s standing as a top 100 global university and are able to cement collaborations with excellent universities,” Professor Høj said.

Initially, pilot sites will be established in Indonesia and the Philippines. Research findings will be implemented and disseminated across the East–Asia Pacific and globally. The Global Environment Facility, via an investment administered by the World Bank, is the major funder.