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Debt-for-Nature Swaps Gain Traction Among Developing Countries

Fifty-eight of the world’s developing countries most vulnerable to climate change collectively have almost $500 billion of debt servicing payments due in the next four years. 

In 2021, Belize completed a $364 million debt-for-nature swap that reduced its debt by 12% of GDP.

In 2021, Belize completed a $364 million debt-for-nature swap that reduced its debt by 12% of GDP.

Photographer: Benedict Kim
Corrected

Debt restructurings tied to nature or climate-friendly outcomes present a multi-billion-dollar possibility, according to one of the world’s largest conservation organizations that’s been involved in three such deals.

“We see $10 billion right now of opportunity that can turn $2 billion into conservation, with not one penny of new philanthropy coming from the private sector,” said Jennifer Morris, chief executive of the US nonprofit Nature Conservancy, during a panel discussion held Monday at the COP27 climate summit. “The opportunity for conservation here is huge.”

Debt-for-nature or climate swaps are deals that typically allow a country to restructure its debt at a lower interest rate or longer maturity, with the proceeds being allocated to conservation or green projects. Since 2016, the Nature Conservancy has organized debt-for-nature swaps for the Seychelles, Belize and Barbados, which overall helped to convert more than $500 million of debt into $230 million of money for conservation, according to Morris.