The Climate War Comes to Australia: The Great Barrier Reef is in Jeopardy

The last of the world’s greatest eco-treasures, the Great Barrier Reef, is in jeopardy.

For the past five years, I've had the opportunity to attend the Clinton Global Initiative as a filmmaker and a press correspondent. During that time, I have personally seen the tremendous growth of CGI, and the various non-profits, NGO’s, business leaders come together under one umbrella to solve the world’s problems. This year at CGI the attendance was higher than normal with a greater attention on the climate crisis. In light of the global warming, which some today feel is just a myth, the reality is coming home sooner to others in a more radical way. In Australia, one of the most treasured environmental icons, the Great Barrier Reef is under siege.

In 2007, the International Panel on Climate Change predicted that, if nothing is done, by 2020, up to 60% of the Great Barrier Reef would bleach every second year. In response to the climate crisis in Australia, one organization is pulling together the resources to help preserve this great ecological treasure.

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) was today welcomed as the first Australian not-for-profit into the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). Attending the CGI from Australia was Judith Stewart, Chief Executive Officer of the GBRF. Her announcement reinforces the economic and environmental significance of the Great Barrier Reef on a global scale.

“The GBRF commitment was selected specifically as an exemplary approach to addressing challenges in the priority area of the Environment and market based solutions. The benefit of this financing approach is the delivery of substantial, up-front research funding up front to commission this urgent body of research.”

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) believes the research community has 5 years to find the solutions addressing adaptation to climate change. 109 countries and over half a billion people globally rely directly on healthy and resilient coral reefs.

Given the critical timeframes to address adaptation for coral reefs globally, this financing mechanism will have distinct advantages over the traditional funding approach of smaller multi-year grants, allowing GBRF to fully implement its program of research.

The GBRF was recognized for its plan to bring an innovative financing mechanism in the form of a bond, which subject to Government approval has the potential to deliver a highly replicable funding solution for a range of environmental and social issues globally.

GBRF, in conjunction with Goldman Sachs Australia and KPMG, has developed the new fundraising framework to fund a substantial portfolio of research required to support the GBRF’s mission of protecting and preserving Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. GBRF will deliver a comprehensive research program focused on enabling coral reefs to successfully adapt to climate change. The success of this funding mechanism has the potential to offer far reaching and very positive impacts globally.

Lord Michael Hastings, KPMG’s International's Global Head of Citizenship and Diversity, said:

"It’s been a deep honour for KPMG to work alongside the GBRF in developing the bond and ensuring that it delivers what we all agree is a vital investment. The GBR has become symbolic over generations as a world heritage site that captures the rich bio diversity of species and is in itself compellingly beautiful. We know there is little time to protect its long-term value for the millions who would be affected by further damage and degradation. So - now is the moment to step up the need and face the potential implications of neglect with a determination to engage with the bond opportunity and to make history together. That's our commitment."

Phlippe Cousteau, the CEO of EarthEcho International who was also attending CGI with a Youth empowerment commitment states, said:

“Our corral reefs are like our rainforests, with a life span of over 400 million years. To lose the biodiversity would be an ecological disaster. Our greatest challenge as story- tellers is to help people understand the importance of these ecosystems and the critical issue at hand and move to a more sustainable approach of preserving these life forms.

About The Great Barrier Reef Foundation (The Foundation):

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation is an Australian not-for-profit with strong links to Australian business, philanthropy, government and coral reef research and management agencies. In 2007 the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted that if nothing was done about the devastating impacts of climate change on coral reefs, as much as 60% of the world’s largest reef, the Great Barrier Reef, would bleach every second year by 2020. The IPCC’s predictions were a call to action. Irrespective of how successful we are in mitigating the severity of climate change, there must be effective adaptation to changes in the ecosystem which are already in evidence and to which we are already committed. Recognising that no one group can solve this problem alone and that such a challenge requires leadership and a strong drive for innovation, the Foundation convened experts from across its network to develop a portfolio of research targeted towards a vision of resilient coral reefs, successfully adapting to climate change. It further partnered with Goldman Sachs Australia and KPMG to innovate in a funding mechanism to facilitate an immediate and accelerated.

For more information, please visit www.barrierreef.org

About EarthEcho International:

EarthEcho International is a leading environmental nonprofit committed to youth engagement, action, and leadership through education. EarthEcho helps young people everywhere understand the critical role we play in the future of the planet through the one thing that connects us all – water. Earth echo International is a nonprofit 501c3 organization founded by siblings Philippe and Alexander Cousteau in honor of their father Philippe Cousteau Sr. Son of the legendary explorer Jacques Yves Cousteau.

For more information about EarthEcho International, visit, http://www.earthecho.org

About the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI):

Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) convenes global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Since 2005, CGI Annual Meetings have brought together more than 125 current and former heads of state, 15 Nobel Peace Prize laureates, hundreds of leading CEOs, heads of foundations, major philanthropists, directors of the most effective nongovernmental organizations, and prominent members of the media. These CGI members have made more than 1,700 commitments valued at $57 billion, which have already improved the lives of 220 million people in more than 170 countries. The 2010 CGI Annual Meeting will take place from September 20-23, 2010, in New York City. The CGI community also includes CGI University (CGI U), a forum to engage college students in global citizenship, MyCommitment.org, an online portal where anybody can make a Commitment to Action, and CGI Lead, which engages a select group of young leaders from business, government, and civil society.

For more information, visit www.clintonglobalinitiative.org.


Environmentalist contributor, Greg Reitman, is a filmmaker who combines a background in writing, producing and directing with tech-savvy business acumen. In 2000, Greg founded Blue Water Entertainment, an independent production company focusing on environmentally conscious entertainment. He recently produced the 2008 SUNDANCE Audience Award-winning feature documentary “FUEL.” The tremendous success and critical acclaim generated by “FUEL” garnered Mr. Reitman the sobriquet ‘Hollywood’s Green Filmmaker. www.gregreitman.com


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