Photo taken April 4, 2019 shows fish swimming off the coast of Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Hurghada. In dazzling turquoise waters off Egypt’s Red Sea coast, divers swim among delicate pink jellyfish and admire coral but the rebounding tourism sector is worrisome for the fragile marine ecosystem.
ADB launches $5-B action plan for ‘blue economies’
AT Pamintuan (The Philippine Star) - May 3, 2019 - 12:00am

NADI – With commercial fish stocks seen to disappear by 2048 and 90 percent of coral reefs by 2052, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) launched here yesterday a $5-billion initiative to finance an action plan for promoting ocean health and so-called blue economies.

The Oceans Financing Initiative, to be implemented from 2019 to 2024, will give priority to archipelagic states such as the Philippines and Indonesia, Bambang Susantono, ADB vice president for knowledge management and sustainable development, told a press briefing in this Fijian city.

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

The Action Plan for Healthy Oceans and Sustainable Blue Economies was launched as the ADB noted that the Asia-Pacific has become “the epicenter of a major crisis in marine plastic pollution, threatening the productivity of the region’s marine economies, which are critical to poverty reduction.”

The action plan targets wastewater and plastics pollution as well as agricultural runoffs.

Approximately eight million tons of plastic enter oceans every year, Susantono said. Of the 10 rivers transporting from 88 to 95 percent of plastics into the sea worldwide, eight are in the Asia-Pacific. The region accounts for 80 percent of global aquaculture and 60 percent of capture fisheries. 

Bruce Dunn, director of the safeguards division in the ADB’s sustainable development and climate change division, told journalists at the launch of the action plan here that the bank is also discussing areas of cooperation with China to promote the initiative, such as in reducing its plastic waste and pushing recycling programs.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has been sued for environmental offenses by two former Philippine officials before the International Criminal Court, for the destruction of coral reefs through the construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea.

Asked if the artificial island building would be discussed with China as part of the ocean’s health initiative, Susantono said the ADB was working with Beijing on other environmental programs such as integrative resource management and the development of green and sustainable cities.

The Oceans Financing Initiative will provide technical assistance grants and funding from the ADB and other donors to reduce the technical and financial risks of blue economy projects, through instruments such as capital market “blue bonds” and credit risk guarantees.

The action plan will focus on creating a blue economy – sustainable fisheries and tourism; ecosystem management such as the restoration of oceans and rivers; water pollution management and the development of sustainable coastal infrastructure such as ports.

To do this, the ADB will support programs to strengthen policy and regulatory frameworks. It will catalyze the use of high-level and digital technology for wastewater management and integrated solid waste management. Knowledge will be shared on social and economic costs, impacts and investment needs to promote ocean health.

The ADB will promote regional cooperation on the initiative, and engage women, youth and communities so they can support ocean health issues and benefit from marine economic opportunities.

The Oceans Financing Initiative will be piloted in Southeast Asia in collaboration with the ASEAN Infrastructure Fund and South Korea. The design and implementation of the initiative are supported by the World Wide Fund for Nature.

“We need to transition businesses to a circular economy,” Dunn said.

The ADB is holding its 52nd annual Board of Governors meeting in this city. Fiji and other Pacific island states are among the most vulnerable to climate change.

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