Are debt-for-nature swaps the way forward for conservation? Patrick Greenfield

After decades in the wilderness, and familiar to only those in the know, “debt-for-nature swaps” are becoming one of the hottest things in conservation finance. Last month, Ecuador struck the biggest deal of its kind: refinancing $1.6bn (£1.3bn) of its commercial debt at a discount in exchange for a consistent revenue stream for conservation around the Galápagos Islands.

Other nature-rich countries that are struggling to pay their debts have taken notice and deals are rumoured in Gabon and Sri Lanka. The market for debt-for-nature swaps is poised to exceed $800bn, according to Bloomberg, prompting fierce competition between banks as demand for green investments increases.

The ‘father of biodiversity’ Dr Thomas Lovejoy, in 2005. He had the original idea behind debt-for-nature swaps. 

Debt-for-nature swaps mean reducing a developing country’s debt burden in exchange for guaranteed finance for nature. 

Read more:

Find more age of extinction coverage here, and follow biodiversity reporters Phoebe Weston and Patrick Greenfield on Twitter for all the latest news and features


Patrick Greenfield