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Asia Development Bank pledges $5bn for cleaner oceans

The Asia Development Bank (ADB) has used its annual meeting in Fiji to launch an environmental action plan for the Asia and Pacific region.

The Action Plan for Healthy Oceans and Sustainable Blue Economies will expand financing and technical assistance for ocean health and marine economy projects of up to US$5 billion, including co-financing from partners, for the period 2019 to 2024,

The Philippines-based ADB, set up in 1966 to reduce poverty in the region, says the plan will focus on four areas:

  • creating inclusive livelihoods and business opportunities in sustainable tourism and fisheries;
  • protecting and restoring coastal and marine ecosystems and key rivers;
  • reducing land-based sources of marine pollution, including plastics, wastewater, and agricultural runoff; and
  • improving sustainability in port and coastal infrastructure development.

The action plan will also support efforts by ADB’s developing member countries to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs), including SDG 14 Life Below Water, which seeks to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources.

“The prosperity of our region depends on healthy oceans and sustainable development,” said ADB president Takehiko Nakao. “We must work toward a more resilient future, where humanity and oceans thrive together.”

As a part of the overall plan, ADB will launch the Oceans Financing Initiative to create opportunities for the private sector to invest in bankable projects that help improve ocean health. ADB and other donors will provide the initiative with technical assistance grants and funding to reduce the project’s technical and financial risks of projects. This will be done through instruments such as credit risk guarantees and capital market “blue bonds”.

The initiative will be piloted in Southeast Asia in collaboration with the ASEAN Infrastructure Fund and South Korea. The World Wide Fund for Nature, a longtime partner of ADB, will support the design and implementation of the financing initiative.

Centre of the crisis

Asia Pacific has been heavily impacted by marine plastic pollution, threatening the productivity of its marine economies, which are crucial to poverty reduction. The region has eight  the 10 rivers transporting an estimated 88% to 95% of plastics into the sea worldwide.

Ocean ecosystems have been pushed to the brink of collapse by the threats of climate change, pollution and unregulated fishing. On current trends, about 90% of Asia and the Pacific’s coral reefs will be dead by 2050 and all commercially exploitable fish stocks will be exhausted .This will significantly threaten food security, the global economy and the region’s poorest and most vulnerable communities.

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