Int’l Conference seeks to protect coral reefs from climate change

Okinawan artist Naka Bokunen created this work for the conference.

Dozens of officials from Japan and five other countries are gathering in Okinawa this weekend to get down to serious discussions on protecting coral reefs from climate change.

The Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology is the venue for the two-day session Saturday and Sunday.  The event is hosted by the Ministry of the Environment and Okinawa Prefectural Government, and co-hosted by the Okinawa Institute of Technology and the University of the Ryukyus.

Government officials and researchers from six countries are meeting in Onna to talk about the problems of climate change and coral reefs.  About 25% of marine life around the globe inhabits coral reefs, which account for less than .1% of the world’s ocean area.  Coral reefs and surrounding waters are vulnerable to rises in sea surface temperatures.  Officials hope this session will “make people inJapan and abroad aware that beautiful coral reefs are endangered and of the need for measures against global warming.”  A senior environment official says there are plans to introduce Japan’s cutting-edge environmental technologies, including those related to off-shore wind and solar power generation.

Registration is free, and still available for Saturday at http://www.env.go.jp/en/nature/npr/iccccrc2013/  Sunday’s sessions are full.  All program activities take place in the OIST auditorium.  Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, will deliver the keynote speech, will Australian, Palau and Maldives officials will participate in panel discussions.  Sunday, section meetings will be held under four themes, including coral reef conservation and mitigation measures on climate change in islands.

Because of the small environmental capacity of this islets region and because damages are obvious, problems such as global warming, biological diversity and ecological service loss (gifts from nature) have to be dealt with special care. For instance, although coral reefs, which are tourist resources specific to the region, work as important natural barriers preventing natural disasters, suffer from the increase of sea temperature and global warming along with other damages caused by humans, and are subject to decline. Moreover, there are some islets regions where territories maintenance is in danger due to direct and indirect influences of global warming.

Regarding recyclable energies necessary needed to prevent global warming; although measures must be taken because of their unstable outputs, possibilities of using tremendous energies (wind and flood tide power etc.) existing in the ocean are highly expected. A sustainable islets economy and politics, relying on the promotion of ecotourism using touristic resources such as coral reefs as well as the use of environmental high technology in symbiosis with nature, with low carbonic emission, has to be examined.

This international symposium is being hosted in order to examine how a sustainable island society in symbiosis with environment should be and send this message to the world, while presenting advanced cases of Okinawa as a region with a unique islets ecosystem. Issues arising from climate change and protecting islands and their surrounding coral reefs require global solutions. The purpose of this international conference is to bring together experts from within Japan and around the world to discuss strategies and policies.

Leaders and experts from several countries are expected to participate. Participants from Japan will include the Minister of the Environment and the Governor of Okinawa. The International Symposium, and Reception hosted by Okinawa Prefectural Government both take place Saturday. The conference will be in both English and in Japanese, with simultaneous interpretation.