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Resilient Reefs launches in Belize to strengthen climate adaptation

Friday, 30 July 2021 at 10:00
access_time 2 min read
A gorgonian grows on a shallow coral reef on Turneffe Atoll in the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System (Belize) © Ethan Daniels / Shutterstock.com

Last month, the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System (Belize) appointed its first Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) as part of the global Resilient Reefs Initiative that aims to empower local communities to adapt to a changing climate.

Following in the footsteps of the CROs at the Ningaloo Coast in Australia and the Lagoons of New Caledonia in France, Ms. Kalene Eck, the newly appointed CRO in Belize, will be tasked with the development of a stakeholder-led climate resilience strategy. The Strategy, once implemented, will allow both nature and people to thrive and help secure the preservation of the site’s Outstanding Universal Value. The CRO is strategically positioned at Belize’s Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute (CZMAI) under the Government’s Ministry of the Blue Economy and Civil Aviation and will work across government agencies to develop and implement the climate adaptation strategy.

Resilient Reefs is a global, six-year, AUD$14 million program (approximately USD$10.5 million at time of writing), established by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation in collaboration with the Nature Conservancy’s Reef Resilience Network, Columbia University’s Center for Resilient Cities and Landscapes, Resilient Cities Catalyst, UNESCO and AECOM. The Initiative provides capacity building, technical expertise and financial support to an initial four pilot marine World Heritage sites to assist local management and communities to change the way they understand climate risks and vulnerability and design site-based resilience strategies. Additionally, the Initiative has reserved seed funding to help sites move rapidly from planning to implementing these solutions.

At the heart of the Initiative is the appointment of a locally recruited CRO at the initial pilot sites. The CRO is tasked with bringing together private entities, public sectors and local communities to work collaboratively to build a resilience strategy for the World Heritage site that allows both the ecological and dependent communities to adapt to the changing realities while protecting the World Heritage listed ecosystem and its services. The four initial pilot sites are Australia’s Ningaloo Coast, Palau’s Rock Islands Southern Lagoon, France’s Lagoons of New Caledonia and the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System.

The Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1996 and is the largest reef system in the Western Hemisphere. About 200,000 Belizeans - half of Belize's population - are dependent on the reef for their livelihoods and 15 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) is derived from the reef. The Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System was successfully removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2018 following major progress for its mangrove protection and ban of oil development.