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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, 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.

At the same time, there are enormous funding gaps: To achieve SDG 14 by 2030 alone, experts estimate that around USD 150 billion is needed annually. KfW is helping to close this gap with its projects and initiatives.

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. Commitments contributing to the achievement of SDG 14 were around EUR 108 million in 2022.

In June 2021, KfW signed the Sustainable Blue Economy Finance Principles for all activities in the area of Financial Cooperation (FC) 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 (analogous to principle no. 7). 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.

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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