Pioneer swimmer Lewis Pugh: We need urgent climate action to save coral reefs


Renowned endurance swimmer and the UN Environment Programme’s Patron of the Oceans Lewis Pugh has issued a clarion call: It’s time for urgent climate action to save coral reefs to support life on earth.

Pugh, an ocean advocate and a pioneer swimmer who has been a leading figure in efforts to protect the oceans, participated in a talk hosted by the British Embassy in Riyadh on saving coral reefs.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, the UN patron shared his purpose for his Saudi Arabia visit: “It’s to start talking about the UN Climate Change Conference (COP27), which is happening in Sharm El-Sheikh, which is in the Red Sea. And the situation for coral reefs is very, very serious. The science is, if we heat the planet by 1.5 degrees (Celsius), 70 percent of coral reefs die. If we heat the planet by two degrees, 99 percent of coral reefs die. We are now on track for at least 2.3 to 2.4 degrees. We are on track to lose all the coral in my lifetime.”

Pugh said that coral reefs are essential for life on Earth and that about one-quarter of life in oceans lives in coral reefs: “They are the nurseries of our oceans, and they are absolutely essential for these countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan. This is something so precious, we cannot afford to lose these coral reefs.”

“I am here to say to everybody in Saudi Arabia that every fraction of a degree now matters,” said Pugh.

Pugh, who is the first person to complete a long-distance swim in every ocean of the world, was asked if he is going to swim into the Red Sea in the Kingdom: “Yes, I have to make an announcement very soon. I have always wanted to do a very big swim in the Red Sea, and hope to make an announcement next week.”

Praising Saudi Arabia for its green initiative and commitment to advancing the fight against climate change, Pugh underlined: “Saudi Arabia has obviously got a very important role to play. They are a G20 nation, and they have the funds now necessary to invest in new technologies and transition as we have to do this really quickly to transition from fossil fuels into renewables. I think they can play such an important role in leading the world into a sustainable future.”

On his visit in a time of transformation in various fields in line with Saudi Vision 2030, the oceans advocate said: “Well, I am very excited to be here. —Agencies


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