COVID-19, debt relief, and the climate and biodiversity crises


On Wednesday, 9 September, IIED hosted an online discussion on how debt relief can be addressed through climate and nature programme swaps.

Last updated 9 September 2020
Man, wearing a blue tunic, stands with his back to the camera and looks at huts in the background.

Mauritania spends over 20% of its revenue on debt repayments. With COVID-19 these debts are expected to increase rapidly (Photo: Xaume Olleros/EU via FlickrCC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, urgent debt relief is needed. For many developing countries, repayments mean that vast amounts of money are diverted away from action on the climate emergency and biodiversity loss as well as education, health and infrastructure. Millions more vulnerable people are being pushed into poverty.

This online event brought together experts to discuss the use of debt for climate and nature programme swaps as a tool to address poverty, the climate crisis and biodiversity loss.

What are the opportunities and challenges of such an approach? What role can creditors from the private sector, multilateral organisations and governments play? What is the role of debtor governments? And to what extent can such an approach support a sustainable post-COVID-19 recovery?

On 8 September, IIED released a report showing how large-scale debt swaps can help fight debt, climate change and nature loss together.

Event coverage

You can see a recording of the event from the Facebook Live stream below, including the question-and-answer session with webinar participants.

The presentation given by Paul Steele is also available on IIED's SlideShare channel.

About the speakers

Andrew Norton (moderator) is director of IIED. He is an applied anthropologist working on a range of issues related to social and environmental justice.

Paul Steele is chief economist in IIED’s Shaping Sustainable Markets research group. He specialises on the linkages between environment, climate, and poverty reduction.

Sonja Gibbs is the managing director and head of sustainable finance at the Institute of International Finance. Her work focuses on multi-asset investment strategy, emerging/frontier markets, capital flows and ESG investment.

Dr Shamshad Akhtar served as governor of the State Bank of Pakistan and finance minister in the last caretaker government. She has served in several multilateral institutions including the United Nations, where she served as the Under Secretary-General of the Economic and Social Commission of the Asia and Pacific (UNESCAP), and senior special advisor on economics and finance of the UN Secretary General, and concurrently served for five years as UN G20 Sherpa for development and finance tracks.

About the series

This event was part of the IIED Debates series. Through the convening of expert speakers and external stakeholders, IIED brings together an international community to discuss critical issues.

IIED Debates encompass both physical and digital events, including critical themes, breakfast debriefs and webinars. These events are public and are hosted regularly throughout the year in our London and Edinburgh offices and online.

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Juliette Tunstall ([email protected]), internal engagement and external events officer