26 OCTOBER 2009 | Washington DC - From October 24-29, 2009, the Australian Great Barrier Reef will provide the setting for an important meeting of global water-related projects. Over 300 of the world’s leading water and ocean managers, scientists, civil society, international organization staff, and country representatives to identify practical measures for coping with climatic variability. Co-hosted by the Government of Australia and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Fifth GEF Biennial International Waters Conference promises to unveil new research results on protecting coral reefs, adapting to the accelerated warming of coastal oceans, and adjusting to the movement of fisheries away from warming, polluted waters.
The subject of growing “Dead Zones” of coastal and marine waters caused by disruption of the global nitrogen cycle and accelerated warming will be debated, with input from a pre-conference workshop in China organized by the GEF’s Science and Technical Advisory Panel. While these polluted areas are expanding elsewhere, the experiences of 16 Danube/Black Sea countries in greatly reducing the Black Sea “Dead Zone” will be featured. Over the last 15 years, the GEF provided some $100 million in grants to assist the Black Sea countries in reducing excessive nitrogen and other water pollutants contributing to the problem.
With most of the freshwater on our planet residing underground, protection of aquifers and proper management of groundwater will be featured in pre-conference technical workshops in Cairns October 24-25, where new articles adopted by the United Nations for managing transboundary aquifers will be discussed and bold new measures identified for introduction into GEF projects.
Monique Barbut, the GEF Chief Executive Officer, placed the problem of shared waters in perspective: “The world’s oceans, rivers, and groundwater systems do not respect political boundaries. Coastal systems in particular have an important role in fighting climate change and provide a service as blue forests of the world very similar to the forests we see on land. These invaluable waters continue to be managed in fragmented ways that are endangering the food supply, livelihoods, and community security of billions of people.”
Commenting on GEF’s role in piloting measures that can help developing countries cope with these global stresses, Mrs. Barbut said: “Developing countries have gained an enormous amount of experience over the 18 years as GEF has helped them address water and ocean-related concerns. Meetings like the GEF water summit in Cairns this week are exciting as countries share practical experiences about the results of their GEF projects and take stock of what more they must accomplish to secure their water and food supplies in the face of a warming planet.”
Today, the GEF remains the world’s largest financier of multi-country collaboration and conflict resolution for shared water and ocean systems. The International Waters portfolio consists of some 180 projects in 149 countries supported by $1.1billion in grants and almost $5 billion in co-financing for some of the world’s most threatened water systems.
About the Global Environment Facility (GEF)
GEF unites 178 countries in partnership with international institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the private sector to address global environmental issues while supporting national sustainable development initiatives. Today the GEF is the largest funder of projects to improve the global environment. An independent financial organization, the GEF provides grants for projects related to biodiversity, climate change, international waters, land degradation, the ozone layer, and persistent organic pollutants. Since 1991, GEF has achieved a strong track record with developing countries and countries with economies in transition, providing $8.6 billion in grants and leveraging $36.1 billion in co-financing for more than 2,400 projects in over 165 countries. www.thegef.org
Gaye Scott, 20/20 Media, Cairns. Mobile: 0418 793 009
Steve Raaymakers, IWC-5 Technical Coordinator, Cairns. Mobile: 040 9909 422
Maureen Shields Lorenzetti, GEF Media Relations, Washington D.C. Tel: +1 202-473-8131 - email@example.com