Seychelles Creates Groundbreaking Marine Reserve With Help From Leonardo DiCaprio

The first ever climate adaptation debt restructuring that also includes a strong marine conservation component has been finalized between the Government of Seychelles and its Paris Club creditors. The agreement introduces impact investing to debt restructuring and provides proof of concept for other Small Islands Developing States (SIDS)–or more accurately Large Ocean Developing States (LODS)– to replicate.

The deal is supported by The Nature Conservancy through its NatureVest division and Africa program and was negotiated in the Paris Club with support from the French Government. The restructuring will provide funding to support adaptation to climate change through improved management of coasts, coral reefs and mangroves.

The financing will promote implementation of a Marine Spatial Plan for the entire Seychelles Exclusive Economic Zone, a territory approximately 3,000 times the size of their land mass. The deal will also ensure approximately 400,000 km2/98.9 million acres (an area larger than the size of Germany) will be managed for conservation as marine protected areas (MPAs) within five years.

The debt restructuring uses a combination of investment capital and grants to protect and reduce the vulnerability of the marine and coastal ecosystems of the Seychelles. It also provides Seychelles with an innovative financial tool to restructure its debt and allow its national government to free capital streams and direct them toward climate change adaptation and marine conservation activities that benefit their fisheries and tourism industries, and ultimately the livelihoods of their citizens

An Island Nation with Important Natural Assets 

The low-lying geography of Seychelles, a nation of 115 islands in the Western Indian Ocean, makes its people and economy particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Increased storm frequency, rising sea levels and coral bleaching from warm ocean temperatures threatens the vital pillars of Seychelles’ economy: tourism and tuna fisheries.

A Path Toward Replicability

This combination of public and private funds—each leveraging the other—creates a new model for public/private co-investment debt restructuring in other areas of the world, notably other LODS.

The model is already attracting interest from a number of other countries and international institutions that are interested in pursuing a similar approach to financing their own marine conservation and climate adaptation.

Innovation for Impact

At its most basic, this debt restructuring converts a portion of Seychelles’ debt to other countries into more manageable debt held by a local entity; this is accomplished by refinancing it with a mix of investment and grants.

The Nature Conservancy raised $15.2 million in impact capital loans and $5 million in grants to buy-back $21.6 million of Seychelles debt. The cash flow from the restructured debt is payable to and managed by an independent, nationally based, public-private trust fund called the Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT).

Debt service payments fund three distinct streams: one for work on the ground that will help reduce risk through improved management of coasts, coral reefs, and mangroves, another to repay investors and a third to capitalize SeyCCAT’s endowment, which can then support conservation work into the future.

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