Turtles swimming in the ocean, next to it: SDG 14 Icon: Life below water

    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, which cover over 70% of our planet, life on earth in its present form would not be possible. Oceans regulate the climate, produce about half of our oxygen and store around a quarter of global 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 – as are terrestrial ones. It is now widely recognised that the two SDGs on life under water (SDG 14) and life on land (SDG 15) are particularly important levers for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals as a whole.

    The international community has since been able to agree on important goals. At the 2022 UN Biodiversity Conference in Montreal, for example, it was agreed to protect at least 30% of land and sea areas by 2030. The UN Agreement on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ), signed in 2023, will for the first time regulate the conservation and sustainable use of marine areas that lie beyond national jurisdiction and make up around two thirds of the world's oceans. However, progress in establishing and successfully managing marine protected areas, combating illegal fishing and supporting small-scale farmers and fishermen is not progressing as quickly or to the extent required to achieve the 2030 target. SDG 14 is one of the most underfunded goals of all; the global financing gap is estimated at USD 150 billion per year. With its projects and initiatives in the field of marine conservation, KfW is helping to close this gap.

    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 wastewater and waste disposal on behalf of the German Federal Government. Neu commitments contributing to the achievement of SDG 14 were around EUR 227 million in 2023.

    In 2021, KfW signed the Sustainable Blue Economy Finance Principles for all activities in the area of Financial Cooperation (FC), and in 2023 supported the Cartagena Call of the development banks in favor of more investment in the protection and sustainable use of marine resources in order to confirm and further expand its commitment to marine conservation. These guidelines are consistent with those of KfW Development Bank in the design of its financing instruments and the established environmental and social standards. Detailed information on the marine portfolio and the respective evaluation reports are now freely accessible via the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) Transparency Portal in order to improve reporting on the implementation progress of the principles. In the future, we are seeking more synergies through the joint use of “open data exchange platforms” and the exchange of scientific information on marine ecosystems collected in the context of projects. By actively participating in working groups, we want to support the exchange of ideas on the successful implementation of the principles and share them within KfW Development Bank. Based on these guidelines, we are looking for further cooperation opportunities to expand our SDG 14 portfolio.

    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.

    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!

    KfW's contribution to SDG 14