Innovative Seychelles debt-for-nature swap could be a model for the Caribbean

Aerial view of Aldabra in the Seychelles. Image credit: Simisa

The Seychelles recently declared two new major marine protected areas as part of a groundbreaking new debt-for-nature swap:

The Seychelles has created two vast new marine protected areas in the Indian Ocean after a groundbreaking finance deal brokered by the Nature Conservancy and other stakeholders, including environmentalist and Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio.

In exchange for writing off a portion of its debt, the island nation agreed to protect a total of 81,000-square-miles of ocean—that’s about the size of Great Britain.

Seychelles was able to pay off an outstanding sovereign debt with $21 million raised by the Nature Conservancy. Future debt payments will go into a new trust, the Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust, to finance new marine protection and climate adaptation projects

The scheme is understood to be the world’s first “debt-for-nature” finance plan designed to protect ocean environments. The agreement will also help the low-lying archipelago prepare for the effects of climate change, including warming and rising waters and ocean acidification, and to protect its vital tourism and $300-million-a-year fishing industry.

What makes this of particular interest to the Caribbean is that the Nature Conservancy is working on adopting/adapting the Seychelles debt-for-nature model for use in this region, likely in support of the Caribbean Challenge Initiative:

“This milestone MPA designation demonstrates how very important conservation outcomes can be generated with new financial tools,” said Mark Tercek, president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy. “This is a critical accomplishment in our mission to bring conservation to scale across the globe; what you see today in Seychelles is what we expect to introduce in the Caribbean and other ocean regions facing the threats of climate change.”

Some Caribbean countries, notably Belize [pdf] and Jamaica, have previous experience with debt-for-nature agreements, but the Seychelles example is the first instance of a debt-for-nature deal being used to finance marine conservation:

The Seychelles deal builds on 20 years’ worth of similar debt-for-nature swaps that have preserved vast tracts of tropical forests in Latin America and the Caribbean.

But it’s the first time the financing technique has been used to secure a marine environment, said Rob Weary, the head of NatureVest, which funds the group’s conservation deals.

“There’s not been one example of a country defaulting on a debt-for-nature swap,” he said.

Read more in reports from Ecowatch, The Nature Conservancy, and Reuters.


[Image: Simisa via Wikimedia Commons]

Tremendous outcome! I have watched, and even participated in some of the earlier debt for nature deals. I love how this one expands the reach of a proven tool to the marine space. Congratulations Rob and the team. Ken hines

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