THE total clean-up of plastic pollution in seven major rivers across Southeast Asia will cost $297 million, according to environment experts.
This is according to an Asian Development Blog penned by National University of Singapore Centre for Nature-based Climate Solutions and Tropical Marine Science Institute’s Audrey Tan and Asian Development Bank’s Francesco Ricciardi.
Tan and Ricciardi said plastic pollution is costing Southeast Asian countries $23,100 to $270,000 per square kilometer of coral reef.
“As government coffers are limited, the private sector has to be brought into the discussions. That requires a pipeline of projects that not only meet environmental targets but are also profit-making. Such projects, however, are few and far between,” the experts said.
Citing a 2021 ADB report, Tan and Ricciardi said there is an annual funding gap of $459 billion that needs to be filled before countries can fully access opportunities in sustainable coastal infrastructure, wastewater treat
ment, sustainable tourism and food production.
One recommendation to plug this gap is through blended finance—the combination of public and private capital. But other innovative financial tools could also help, the authors said.
These innovative financial tools include the rise of carbon markets which could inject new funds for ocean conservation through the sale of carbon credits from the
protection of coastal or marine habitats like mangroves.
The list includes blue bonds and insurance schemes that are also being developed to improve the resilience of coastal habitats.
“Parametric insurance schemes that pay out for reef restoration after a hurricane have been rolled out to protect the Mesoamerican reef, and similar schemes are being developed for Asia and the Pacific,” the experts said.
Tan and Ricciardi said addressing plastic pollution is important in climate change adaptation and mitigation. This is not only because of the costs but also the fact that over 70 percent of the earth is covered by water.
They said the sustainable use of ocean resources for development, improved livelihoods, and job creation are critical in the region and the world’s climate change efforts.
These efforts will go a long way, especially now that ocean temperatures are expected to hit their highest level in history.
The experts said this month, it is estimated that the global average daily sea surface temperatures will reach 20.96 degrees Celsius, breaking the 2016 record of 20.95 degrees Celsius, according to the Copernicus climate modelling service.
“The world’s oceans play a critical role in regulating the climate. They put the brakes on how fast the world is warming by absorbing vast amounts of heat and planet-warming carbon dioxide, and also make the higher latitudes more liveable by transferring heat from the tropics to the poles,” Tan and Ricciardi said.
They also noted that oceans present a wealth of untapped resources for cutting emissions, dealing with climate impacts and delivering co-benefits to communities and biodiversity.
The deep sea keeps carbon out of the atmosphere, mangroves protect communities from coastal disasters, and marine genetic resources pave the way for medical innovations—like fluorescent proteins in jellyfish that can help detect cancer.
“There is still much of the blue realm that humanity has yet to discover, but current knowledge of oceanic ecosystems already indicates they have immense value to societies,” Tan and Ricciardi said.
Image credits: Nestlé Philippines