Asia Development Bank to commit $5 billion for ocean health

NADI, Fiji—One of the world’s largest financial institutions is dedicating billions of dollars to businesses pursuing healthy oceans and sustainable development. Asian Development Bank’s Board of Governors, which held its 52nd annual meeting in Nadi, Fiji on May 2, specifically committed $5 billion to an ocean health action play for the Asia-Pacific region.

            The Action Plan for Healthy Oceans and Sustainable Blue Economies will provide financing and technical assistance for marine economy and ocean health projects, according to a statement issued by Asian Development Bank staff. Asian Development Bank’s $5 billion of financing will be available between now and 2024.

            Member countries will use the action plan and financing to achieve Asian Development Bank’s “Sustainable Development Goals.” One of those goals is SDG 14 – Live Below Water.

            “[Asian Development Bank’s action plan],” according to the financial institution’s statement, “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.”

            Marine plastic pollution, according to Asian Development Bank staff, is “at the epicenter of a major crisis” in the Asia-Pacific region and a substantive threat to coastal-based economies in East, South and Southeast Asia.

            Eight of the 10 rivers around the world, where as much as 95 percent of plastics are meander and navigate, are located within the Asia-Pacific region, according to Asian Development Bank.

            “The prosperity of our region depends on healthy oceans and sustainable development. We must work toward a more resilient future, where humanity and oceans thrive together,” Asian Development Bank President Takehiko Nakao said in a released statement.

            Asian Development Bank, as part of the $5 billion action plan, will launch the Ocean Financing Initiative, which, the financial institution stated, “would create opportunities for the private sector to invest in bankable projects that will help improve ocean health.”

            “The initiative will provide technical assistance grants and funding from ADB and other donors to reduce the technical and financial risks of projects. This will be done through instruments such as credit risk guarantees and capital market ‘blue bonds,’” Asian Development Bank staff stated.

            The Ocean Financing Initiative will initially launch in Southeast Asia and function as a collaborative venture with ASEAN Infrastructure and South Korea.

            Asian Development Bank was established in 1966 with 31 members; it has since grown to 69 members. The membership base includes Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mongolia, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Plastics and marine debris in our oceans

            A World Bank report on ocean health stated an estimated 8 million tons of plastics are dumped into our largest waterways (Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Southern and Arctic) annually. The biggest sources of plastic waste, according to World Bank’s research, are China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

            “With 80 percent of waste leakage coming from land, shared river systems and waterways are the conduits for this plastic pollution. The lower reaches of the Mekong river flow through Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, and more and more plastic trash is spilling out from inadequate waste management systems,” World Bank staff stated.

            “The Yangtze River contributes 55 percent of the estimated 2.75 million metric tonnes of plastic waste going into oceans each year. Rivers in Indonesia carry large volumes of plastic,” World Bank staff continued.

            World Bank staff added the financial cost of plastic debris and waste in marine ecosystems is $13 billion, annually. Studies are underway to determine the adverse effects of plastic waste on food chains, jobs and overall health, according to World Bank staff.

            The 21 members of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, developed a working group in 2011 to address ocean health and fisheries. Marine debris, APEC’s Oceans and Fisheries Working Group officials estimated, cost economies in the Asia-Pacific region as much as $1.26 billion annually. Fishing, shipping and tourism activities are directly affected by marine debris, which includes fishing equipment, metals, paper, plastics, rubber and textiles.

            APEC is working to train governments and private entities on developing policies to manage marine debris and plastic waste. The coalition also hopes to lower financial barriers for the private sector to develop and operate waste management systems.

            Improving ocean health in the Asia-Pacific region is more than just keeping plastic waste or marine debris out of the water – most of the world’s consumed seafood is sourced from East and Southeast Asia.

            “APEC’s member economies, which line the Pacific Rim, account for 70 percent of global fish-product consumption, 90 percent of global aquaculture production, and more than 65 pe cent of the world’s capture fisheries,” the regional cooperative organization stated on its website. “Nine of the top ten fish producers in the world are APEC economies.”