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Biodiversity & Environment

Debt-for-Climate Swaps

  • 05 May 2023
  • 5 min read

For Prelims: Debt-for-climate swaps, Paris Agreement, Small island developing states .

For Mains: Importance of Climate Finance, Significance debt-for-climate swapsto addressing the climate change

Why in News?

Climate change is a global problem that impacts everyone, but it affects some countries more than others. Unfortunately, the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change are often the least able to afford the investment needed to strengthen their resilience.

  • This puts these countries in danger of facing prolonged fiscal crises, forcing them to rely on aid from the international community.
  • Debt-for-climate swaps are an innovative financial instrument that aims to address this issue by creating fiscal space for climate investments.

What is Debt-for-Climate Swaps?

  • About:
    • Debt-for-climate swaps can incentivize debtor countries to take meaningful action on climate while reducing their debt burdens.
    • These swaps involve reducing debt in exchange for policy commitments or spending by debtor countries.
      • Both official bilateral and commercial debt can be involved in debt-for-climate swaps.
      • Bilateral debt swaps involve redirecting previously committed debt service payments to official bilateral creditors towards financing mutually agreed projects in areas such as climate action.
    • In the past decade, debt-for-climate swaps have become relatively popular among low- and middle-income countries.
  • History:
    • Debt-for-climate swaps are a variation of debt-for-nature swaps, which were first proposed in the 1980s as a way to conserve biodiversity and protect tropical forests in exchange for debt relief.
    • The first debt-for-nature swap was implemented in 1987 between Bolivia and Conservation International, a non-governmental organization (NGO).
    • Debt-for-climate swaps emerged in the 2000s as a broader concept that encompasses not only nature conservation but also climate mitigation and adaptation.
    • The first debt-for-climate swap was implemented in 2006 between Germany and Indonesia, with the latter committing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) in return for debt relief.
  • Benefits:
    • For Creditors:
      • Debt-for-climate swaps can enhance their development cooperation and climate finance objectives, improve their debt recovery prospects, and strengthen their diplomatic relations with debtor countries.
    • For Debtors:
      • Debt-for-climate swaps can reduce their external debt stock and service, free up fiscal resources for other development needs, increase their domestic investment in climate action, and improve their environmental and social outcomes.
    • For Both Parties:
  • Challenges:
    • Creditor countries are primarily hesitant to go for debt-for-climate swaps unless they are structured to make sure that the public expenditure commitment towards climate action is superior in value to the remaining debt service.
      • However, conditional climate grants are designed and structured to make them impossible to divert and are targeted only for climate investment purposes.

Why should Creditor Countries Engage in Debt-for-Climate Swaps?

  • Creditor countries should engage in debt-for-climate swaps because signatories to the Paris Agreement and the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ), a global coalition of financial institutions, have the commitment to provide financial assistance to developing countries to build clean, climate-resilient futures.
    • Debt-for-climate swaps are one way to fulfill their commitments.

How do Debt-for-Climate Swaps Help Small Island Countries?

  • Small island developing states (SIDS) are eyeing debt-for-climate swaps to address the two challenges they face: adapting to increasing climate risk and recovering from financial distress.
    • Debt-for-climate swaps offer a possible solution for SIDS to address these issues. These involve reducing external debt in exchange for policy commitments or spending by the debtor country.
    • By participating in debt-for-climate swaps, SIDS can reduce its external debt and free up fiscal resources for other developmental needs, including climate action. This can help them increase their domestic investment in climate action.

Source: DTE

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