For Immediate Release

Office of Press Relations

Statement by Administrator Samantha Power

USAID Announces additional $35.7 million in new funding for Save Our Seas

Earth Day 2024


Imagine a garbage truck full of plastic: old food containers, water bottles, wrapping from packages delivered to your door. That’s the amount of plastic waste that is dumped into the ocean every single minute. What’s worse, as demand for plastics grows, experts estimate that by 2030, this rate will increase to the equivalent of two garbage trucks per minute – and by 2040, three garbage trucks per minute.

Plastic pollution is becoming inescapable. Microplastics – tiny pieces of plastic so small that the human eye cannot easily see them – are now contaminating the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and, unsurprisingly, our bodies themselves. Much of this plastic pollution comes from mismanaged waste that is openly dumped into the ocean as well as fields, pits, and rivers, and then leaks into the broader environment. Once plastic gets into the environment, it is extremely difficult and expensive to remove.

This year, as the world commemorates the 54th annual Earth Day with the theme “Planet versus Plastics,” USAID is joining others throughout the global community in committing to do our part to drastically reduce plastic pollution.

In 2022, I announced a landmark initiative to help stop plastic from getting into the environment in the first place: the Save Our Seas Initiative. Save Our Seas works with local and national governments, businesses, civil society, and other organizations to help countries reduce, reuse, and recycle plastic. So far, Save Our Seas has helped prevent more than 99,000 metric tons of plastic from getting into the environment – the equivalent of 10.7 billion plastic bottles.

Today, I am pleased to announce that USAID, working together with Congress, intends to provide an additional $35.7 million in new funding for the Save Our Seas Initiative.

We are also launching our largest country partnership to date with the Government of India. Led by an India-based consortium, this program will work hand-in-hand with local governments to develop and implement Plastic Reduction Action Plans; partner with the private sector to invest in recycling and plastic-alternative innovations; promote sustained behavior change in schools to reduce plastic use and plastic waste; and support social protections, fair wages, and recognition by the government for informal waste workers. Working with Congress, USAID intends to invest $11.25 million in these efforts.

Of course, while plastic pollution is an urgent threat, it is far from the only challenge our planet faces today. On January 30, I spoke at Johns Hopkins about the pressing need to help communities develop and implement tools to prepare for this era of so-called climate shocks: extreme weather events that have become so common they can no longer be characterized as “shocking.” Indeed, just in the months since my remarks, record heat led to deadly wildfires sweeping across South America; countries in Southern Europe and North Africa imposed water rations in the face of severe drought; and the U.S. Census Bureau announced that just last year, disasters forced 2.5 million Americans to flee their homes.

While 2023 was the hottest year on record, this year is expected to be even hotter. Here in the United States, heat is already deadlier than hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes combined. So last month, USAID and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies hosted the first Global Summit on Extreme Heat to help countries grapple with our planet’s fast-growing temperatures. We kicked off two months of action and called on governments, companies, universities, and NGOs to work together to develop, implement, and scale solutions. We also launched a central virtual hub to organize and track progress across sectors. But of course, as we work together to help countries build resilience to climate-induced disasters, we also need to continue ramping up our efforts to help countries reduce the emissions that are driving these intensifying disasters in the first place.

One of the most powerful ways to do so is to reduce methane pollution, which is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide at warming the planet in the near term. We know that we can make progress here by making fairly simple changes to our existing programming. For instance, in Kenya, Feed the Future teams reduced methane emissions from cows by 28 percent while increasing milk productivity by 43 percent – just by improving the cows’ diets. In the Dominican Republic, we supported a local community in cleaning up a landfill – and in doing so, reduced emissions from decomposing waste that amounted to the equivalent of burning three million gallons of gasoline per year.

From plastic pollution to extreme heat to methane emissions, the challenges facing our planet are daunting – but we see real progress when we come together and invest in solutions. So this Earth Day, we recommit to taking action toward a more resilient, sustainable, and equitable world.

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