Debt swaps for climate and nature: innovation for resilience? Make Change Happen podcast episode 8

Debt swaps for climate and nature could offer great gains for the wellbeing of the planet as well as helping to relieve debt pressure on developing countries. But they are a controversial idea. In this episode, we discuss their potential and their challenges.

Article, 12 November 2020

IIED’s ‘Make Change Happen’ podcast provides an opportunity to hear our researchers and guests discuss key global development challenges and explain what we are doing to support positive change. 

This eighth episode explores IIED’s recent work around tackling the debt, climate and nature crises together. Drawing from our research, we shine a light on the debate around debt swaps for climate and nature as a response to these multiple challenges, now made worse by the new challenge of recovering from the impact of COVID-19.

Hosted by Liz Carlile, IIED’s director of communications, the discussion features Yacouba Deme, Mali country director at the Near East Foundation; Jean-Paul Adam, director for technology, climate change and natural resource management in the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa; and Laura Kelly, director of IIED’s Shaping Sustainable Markets research group.

A solution to a pressing problem

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which may put half a billion people back below the poverty line, pressure over the indebtedness of developing countries is increasing. Their combined debt burden already stands at eight trillion US dollars – a figure that may only get worse.

Action on debt relief is needed more urgently than ever; countries must be able to plan for COVID-19 recovery and for strengthening their resilience to climate change and biodiversity loss. IIED is working with partners to raise the profile of debt swaps for climate and nature as a possible solution.

In this episode of  ‘Make Change Happen’, we hear how the Seychelles implemented a marine debt swap, and the guests analyse what is needed for this kind of innovation to work. Reducing complexity and making sure local communities are central to any programme are top of the list.

Find out more by listening to the episode.

Additional resources:


Head and shoulders photo of Laura Kelly

Laura Kelly is director of IIED’s Shaping Sustainable Markets research group. She is an expert in trade and agricultural markets, and leads work to develop inclusive and green economies that leave no one behind.

Head and shoulders photo of Yacouba Deme

Yacouba Deme is Mali country director of the Near East Foundation. He has over 30 years’ experience in rural development and natural resource management, as well as capacity building and training.

Heads and shoulders photo of Jean-Paul Adam

Jean-Paul Adam is director for technology, climate change and natural resource management in the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. He has extensive ministerial experience in the Seychelles government and practical experience of debt swaps for climate and nature.

Head and shoulders photo of Liz Carlile

Liz Carlile (host) is director of the Communications Group at IIED. She is an expert in strategic marketing and communications, with a particular focus on research communications and policy influence, and has published on social learning and climate change communications.

How to listen and subscribe

The ‘Make Change Happen’ podcast will provide informal insights into IIED’s work to create positive change and make the complex issues we face more accessible to wider audiences. The title refers to IIED’s 2019-2024 strategy, which sets out how IIED plans to respond to the critical challenges of our time.

You can subscribe to the podcast on your favourite podcast app as follows:

The podcast is also available on IIED's YouTube channel.

You can follow some of the people you have heard in this episode on Twitter at @lizcarlile, @LauraKellyIIED, @AdamJeanPaul and the @NearEastFdn organisation. Follow the podcast on @IIED_Voices for all the latest updates.