Belize has 240 miles of coastline and an economy that is highly dependent on coastal tourism. But the country’s coastal areas and its Barrier Reef—the largest in the Northern hemisphere—have been degraded by climate change impacts, unsustainable coastal development, overfishing, and agriculture runoff. In addition to the environmental harm, this pollution threatens the local economy. Because of high levels of sovereign debt, limited public resources are available to invest in conservation and cleanup.

Solution and Impact

Political risk insurance will support an innovative project by The Nature Conservancy of Arlington, Virginia that created a fund for long-term investment in conservation in Belize.

The Nature Conservancy will structure a “Blue Bonds” transaction aimed at generating up to $180 million for conservation projects in Belize, over the next 20 years, by purchasing and restructuring the country’s sovereign debt. Funds raised through this restructuring will be invested in marine conservation, coral reef and mangrove restoration, economic diversification, and sustainable tourism along Belize’s coastline. The fund provides conservation grants to NGOs, public sector agencies, national universities, small businesses, and/or community-based organizations through an open and competitive process.

Preserving these marine areas will help protect coastal communities from storm surges and rising seas, while boosting the resiliency of coastal economies and protecting the livelihoods of people, often women and low-income individuals, who rely on tourism and fishing.

The Nature Conservancy’s innovative project to raise money for coastal and marine conservation around the world by restructuring existing debt was a 2019 finalist in the TED Audacious Project that recognizes bold solutions to the world’s most urgent challenges.