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Pakistan explores debt-for-nature scheme to accelerate its 10 billion tree tsunami

Pakistan explores debt-for-nature scheme to accelerate its 10 billion tree tsunami

Creditors could grant Pakistan debt relief in exchange for meeting nature restoration targets, under a proposed first-of-its-kind bond

Pakistan has one of the largest tree-planting programmes in the world – a ready scheme for boosting employment in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Like many developing countries, though, its capacity to build back better from Covid-19 is limited by a mounting debt burden.

The government is developing a novel debt-for-nature scheme to ease its debt woes and accelerate the “10 billion tree tsunami”. Designed by the Finance for Biodiversity initiative, the first-of-its-kind nature performance bond would link debt retirement with nature restoration targets.

Prime minister Imran Khan has promised to plant 10 billion trees across the country and restore more than a million hectares of forest. The mammoth project aims to increase resilience to climate impacts like extremes of rainfall, while absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere and creating jobs.

“We are investing heavily in nature so when this conversation started about the nature bond we were excited about it,” Malik Amin Aslam, Pakistan prime minister’s official advisor on climate change, told Climate Home News.

“There is a push post-Covid-19 to ask for debt retirement and if we can link [relief] to nature performance, it gives more value to the world,” he said.

As of February, the government claimed to have created 85,000 jobs by paying unemployed members of the community to work in tree nurseries and look after saplings, under its “tree tsunami”. It aims to employ another 200,000 people to drive the afforestation effort.

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