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SDG 14 – Life below Water

The challenge of marine protection

At the beginning of 2020 British researchers took an unusual approach: they named a newly discovered amphipod species “Eurythenes plasticus” because they found plastic in its body. Scientists at Newcastle University discovered this species at one of the deepest points on earth, in the Mariana Trench. The discovery shows that even there, living creatures accumulate plastic. To draw attention to the state of the oceans and the alarming consequences of the plastic deluge, the researchers integrated the word plastic into the name of the amphipod. They wanted to send a strong message against marine pollution.

After all, the world’s oceans are under severe pressure for a number of reasons: they are polluted, littered, overfished, their species richness is massively compromised. Mangrove forests, sea grass meadows and coral reefs are being lost at breathtaking speed. And climate change is putting even more pressure on the oceans.

Yet the marine ecosystem provides invaluable services . Without the oceans, life on earth in its present form would not be possible. They regulate the climate, produce about half of our oxygen and store a large part of the CO2 emissions. They also absorb most of the additional heat generated by the man-made greenhouse effect. Furthermore, they are home to the greatest biodiversity on the planet and play a vital role in feeding the world. They provide natural resources, serve as trade routes and ultimately as places of recreation. Marine ecosystems are irreplaceable.

Germany is one of the most committed donors to marine conservation in the world. KfW promotes both the conservation of marine biodiversity and sustainable fisheries management and regulated waste management on behalf of the German Federal Government. With commitments of around EUR 238 million in 2021, 40 protected areas with about 24 million hectares of marine land can be protected or sustainably managed. More than 210,000 people benefit from this.

To make marine protection even more effective, KfW has also set up various international funds on behalf of the German Federal Government, each of which is unique: with the Blue Action Fund (BAF) KfW supports non-governmental organisations so that they can expand the scope of their work in marine conservation on the ground. Support is available for projects in all parts of the world that establish new protected areas, expand or better manage existing ones and improve and permanently secure the living conditions of local communities through sustainable practices.

With the Clean Oceans Initiative (COI) KfW has launched in 2018 an initiative together with the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the French development agency AFD to combat marine litter in developing and emerging economy countries. EUR 2 billion was to be provided by 2023 to reduce the amount of plastic waste discharged into the world's oceans. This goal has already been achieved; more than EUR 2.1 billion has been committed by September 2022. The initiative focuses on projects in the fields of wastewater treatment and waste disposal as well as rainwater management, which prevents plastic waste from being washed into rivers and oceans during heavy rainfall. The funds flow into projects in South Africa, Egypt, Indonesia, Benin and India, among other countries. In the meantime three more development banks joined the initiative: ICO from Spain (Instituto de Crédito Oficial), CDP from Italy (Cassa Depositi de Prestiti) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The now larger group of institutions has decided - not least because of the initiative’s success and the urgency of the issue - to extend the initiative until 2025 and to double the target from EUR 2 billion to EUR 4 billion ahead of schedule. KfW is supporting 18 of the current 55 COI projects with a good EUR 600 million.

KfW is also involved in the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund (CBF). Its radius is limited to the Caribbean, but in this region, which is so important for biodiversity, it helps to expand and strengthen protected areas with long-term funding.

KfW also provided support for the Sustainable Ocean Fund (SOF) since 2019. The fund promotes small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) of what is known as the “blue economy” – companies that use the ocean in a sustainable manner and thus preserve and protect its biodiversity.

In June 2021, KfW for its Business Area KfW Development Bank signed the Sustainable Blue Economy Finance Principles to reaffirm and further expand its commitment to marine conservation. We are working on a SDG 14 filter function within our project database to increase the accessibility of the marine portfolio information as well as to improve the reporting on progress in terms of implementation of these principles (according to principle 7). We are aiming to achieve this for the evaluation report database as well.

A protected area as large as Germany

Five years ago, KfW founded an innovative new fund for marine conservation. On behalf of the German Federal Government, it contributes to the preservation of endangered fish populations and the oceans. KfW Stories speaks to Executive Director Markus Knigge about what the Blue Action Fund has achieved since then.

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Plastic waste in our oceans – act together!

What can we do to get the oceans clean again? KfW has an idea, the Clean Oceans Initiative – and acts!

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KfW's contribution to SDG 14

  • Algae farmer

    Marine economy

    Protection for Madagascar’s mangroves

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  • The landfill in Jambi

    Marine litter

    Landfills for large cities

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  • Beach


    Preserving coral reefs - with the MAR Fund

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  • documents

    Development Research

    How can we stop plastic waste from polluting the oceans?

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Read more about biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of natural resources on our topic page.

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Clean Oceans Initiative

Members of the Clean Oceans Initiative (COI) want to further expand their marine conservation efforts. To do so, they have doubled their target from EUR 2 to 4 billion.

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