In November 2021, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the Government of Belize (Belize) announced the completion of a USD 364 million debt conversion for marine conservation that reduced Belize’s debt by 12 percent of GDP, created long-term sustainable financing for conservation, and locked in commitment to protect 30% of Belize’s ocean, in addition to a range of other conservation measures. The transaction is the world’s largest debt refinancing for ocean conservation to date. The debt conversion enabled Belize to repurchase USD 553 million, a quarter of the country’s total public debt, from bondholders at a 45% discount through a “Blue Loan” arranged by TNC. The “debt conversion” resulted in a USD 189 million reduction in principal outstanding. The savings achieved in the refinancing allowed Belize to create an estimated USD 180 million in conservation funding over 20 years, composed of annual cashflows from the government and an endowment capitalized through the Blue Loan. As part of the transaction, Belize committed to ocean conservation undertakings, including placing 30% of its ocean, including parts of the Mesoamerican Reef, under protection by 2026, using a transparent, participatory Marine Spatial Planning process, and establishing an independent Conservation Fund to allocate the conservation funding to in-country partners. The financial transaction was arranged by NatureVest, TNC’s impact investment unit, in support of TNC’s Blue Bonds for Ocean Conservation strategy. Credit Suisse arranged and financed the Blue Bond. The structure was credit enhanced by the United States International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and incorporated a commercial parametric insurance policy to mitigate the financial impact of natural disasters. The transaction was recognized in Environmental Finance’s 2022 Bond Awards, winning the sovereign sustainability bond of the year and the award for sustainability bond structure innovation.
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