In Kenya, the COVID-19 pandemic has dried up ecotourism, cutting off sources of funding that help protect wildlife and pay an income to communities working to preserve nature.
However, forgiving a share of Kenya’s hefty foreign debt, in exchange for the government devoting those resources to fighting climate change threats and biodiversity loss, could tackle several big problems at once, researchers said yesterday.
“As part of pandemic economic rescue packages, governments have an opportunity to address simultaneously the crises of debt, climate and biodiversity destruction,” researchers from the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) wrote in a report, Tackling the Triple Crisis.
It ranks countries that would benefit most from such “debt swaps” based on their vulnerability to climate change, richness of biodiversity, indebtedness and creditworthiness.
At the top of the list are Cape Verde — an island nation off the coast of West Africa — Vietnam, Honduras, Kenya, Nicaragua and Papua New Guinea.
For example, in Vietnam, swapping debt for nature and climate protection could help farmers in the Mekong Delta — a major food-growing area at high risk of sea level rise — switch to salt-tolerant crop varieties, said IIED chief economist Paul Steele, coauthor of the report.
Opening up budget space could also expand a government effort that pays farmers, particularly in the poorest indigenous communities, to plant trees and conserve forests, he said.
Most of the US$8 trillion in debt owed by developing nations last year was held by wealthy countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, China and large asset managers, which all might have good reason to consider such swaps, he said.
China is the host of the next Convention on Biological Diversity summit, delayed until next year, which aims to increase finance for nature protection, among other goals.
As the biggest holder of bilateral debt with developing nations, China could set an example by testing out debt swaps, and recently mentioned them at an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank meeting, Steele said.
Asset managers facing debt write-offs as a result of the downturn linked to the pandemic might opt to put them to productive use — which could both support ailing economies and reduce the need for more debt relief in the future, Steele said.
Some investors that have made commitments to net-zero emissions by 2050 could also consider debt swaps as part of their broader mission, he added.
Debt-for-nature and debt-for-climate swaps are a relatively new idea.
The Seychelles in 2018 signed a US$27 million deal brokered through The Nature Conservancy, with the freed-up cash going to set up a big marine reserve, Steele said.
Similar agreements might particularly suit other small island developing states in the Caribbean or Pacific with large debt, high climate vulnerability and rich biodiversity, he said.
In all the swaps, money would be made available for climate and nature protection under a “results-based” payment system, in which the debtor nation must do what it promises to obtain the debt relief, Steele said.
While Britain no longer holds much developing-country debt after forgiving most of it decades ago, as the host of next year’s major UN climate summit it could put pressure on creditors in London’s financial center to participate in such swaps, he added.
These deals might become more attractive — and important — as debt rises in developing countries battling the pandemic and economic downturns, researchers said.
Developing-world debt was already reaching record levels before the COVID-19 crisis, rising to 170 percent of GDP across the countries last year from 110 percent in 2010, IMF data showed.
An Australian university student who has never visited China and has only a modest social media following would seem an unlikely target for the Chinese government. However, when a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman personally denounced Drew Pavlou at a news conference, it was just the next phase in an extraordinary campaign against the 21-year-old that has fueled concerns over China’s targeting of critics overseas. Pavlou first placed himself in the superpower’s sights when in July last year he organized a small sit-in at the University of Queensland, where he studies, to protest against various Chinese government policies. Since then, the Global
‘ASKED TO MOVE OUT’: Indonesian coast guard personnel argued with a Chinese vessel over territorial claims after it entered the country’s exclusive economic zone An Indonesian patrol ship confronted a Chinese coast guard vessel that spent almost three days in waters where Indonesia claims economic rights and that are near the southernmost part of China’s disputed claims to the South China Sea. The Indonesian Maritime Security Agency on Friday night detected Chinese ship 5204 entering Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in what Indonesia calls the North Natuna Sea. The agency sent a patrol ship that closed within 1km of the Chinese coast guard vessel and they communicated to affirm their position and their nation’s claims to the area, Indonesian Maritime Security Agency head Aan Kurnia said. “We
BEFORE WINTER COMES: Snow cuts off roads into Ladakh for four months or more each year, so the crunch is on to get food, tents and high-altitude equipment to Leh From deploying mules to large transport aircraft, the Indian military has activated its entire logistics network to transport supplies to thousands of troops for a harsh winter along a bitterly disputed Himalayan border with China. In the past few months, one of India’s biggest military logistics exercises in years has brought vast quantities of ammunition, equipment, fuel, winter supplies and food into Ladakh, a region bordering Tibet that India administers as a union territory, officials said. The move was triggered by a border standoff with China in the snow deserts of Ladakh that began in May and escalated in June into hand-to-hand
Dark matter, mysterious invisible stuff that makes up most of the mass of galaxies, including the Milky Way, is confounding scientists again, with new observations of distant galaxies conflicting with the current understanding of its nature. Research published this week revealed an unexpected discrepancy between observations of dark matter concentrations in three massive clusters of galaxies encompassing trillions of stars and theoretical computer simulations of how dark matter should be distributed. “Either there is a missing ingredient in the simulations or we have made a fundamental incorrect assumption about the nature of dark matter,” Yale University astrophysicist Priyamvada Natarajan, a coauthor of