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Barbados blue bond to support marine conservation

28 June 2023

The government of Barbados is preparing to pour an extra US$50 million into ocean conservation efforts over the next fifteen years after replacing conventional debt with a Blue Bond. The innovative debt conversion will help the country to extend marine protected areas, supporting biodiversity, boosting climate resilience and safeguarding a key tourism resource.

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley said: “This will allow Barbados to secure and protect our marine environment and also help us expand our blue economy, both of which are of critical importance to our people and our very way of life.”

The financing was developed in cooperation with The InterAmerican Development Bank (IDB) and The Nature Conservancy, with financing arranged by Credit Suisse and CIBC First Caribbean. The US$150 million facility will reduce the average interest rate of the financing from 7.2% to 4.9%, with the savings allocated to an independent conservation fund. 

Among the conservation commitments attached to the bond are the development of a marine spatial plan (MSP) based on input from stakeholders including the maritime transport and fishing sectors alongside tourism and conservation experts. The outcome will provide a framework that balances development and conservation interests, while addressing the cumulative effects of human use of the 55,000sq km of coastal oceans around Barbados.

The Minister of the Environment and National Beautification of Barbados, Adrian Forde, said: “Having the full participation of all stakeholders is essential to this process. We need them to share information about our marine space to ensure that equitable consideration is given to all relevant sectors.”

The initial phase of planning, initiated in January, involves the creation of institutional, financial, legal and political frameworks to support the development of the marine spatial plan. One key ambition is to ensure that at least 30% of Barbados’ coastal waters are ultimately designated as protected areas.

The progress in Barbados echoes wider developments taking place to protect large swathes of Marine Protected Areas around the world. In late June the United Nations adopted the landmark High Seas Treaty. This follows the significant breakthrough in March 2023 when nearly 200 nation States took part in the discussions and came to an agreement in finalising the text of the treaty.

It builds on the requirements to protect the marine environment contained in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). One of its important features is that it sets out a process to enable the establishment of cross-sectoral Marine Protected Areas and other area-based management tools in the high seas and the underlying seabed. This is of particular note as currently with just over 1% of the high seas region protected, the BBNJ will be a key tool in delivering agreed upon targets of 30% global MPAs. Read more here.