• Robin Smale and Ashley Gorst

Debt and Biodiversity: A Chinese Leadership Opportunity

New report: China is now at the forefront of responding to environmental challenges at home and abroad. China’s target to reach net zero emissions by 2060 and

its hosting of the 15th Convention on Biological Diversity this year will set

out a post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.

At the same time, the country has emerged as a leading green financial

centre. In 2016, during its G20 Presidency, China pledged to become a

global leader in green bonds. Since then, it has developed a sophisticated

market and regulatory architecture, and become the second largest market

in the world, with US$120 billion of green bonds issued.

These developments are especially significant right now. Many economies

- and the ‘natural capital’ that supports their productivity and resilience - are

under severe strain. Half of low-income countries are either at high risk of

or already in debt distress, creating the need for immediate fiscal space

and resources to drive inclusive economic growth. The G20 is advancing

discussions on a range of solutions to address both the sovereign debt and

nature crises, and China’s role as a creditor puts it in a position to engage

in discussions on how best to support debtors.

There is a two-fold opportunity to integrate economic risks and

opportunities posed by nature and climate into debt markets, while at the

same time driving economic recovery and meeting international

commitments. First, the pricing of sovereign debt should reflect the tangible

economic impacts of how ‘natural capital’ is managed as a driver of

economic productivity and development, such as through sustainable

agriculture and tourist revenues, and in providing long-term resilience in the

face of climate change. Second, linking nature and climate outcomes to

sovereign debt issuance and payment terms can help debtor countries

weather the current debt crisis, and at the same time support their efforts in

meeting international climate and nature commitments.

In a new report released today, F4B sets out the opportunity for China to

engage in developments linking debt and biodiversity. The emergence of a

new generation of debt instruments would allow China to advance the risk

profile of nature in sovereign debt markets, secure nature outcomes that

benefit debtor countries, and advance the goals of international

commitments, while unlocking resources for meeting broader fiscal


The paper argues for an equally rapid and ambitious approach for China to

develop Nature Performance Bonds (NPBs). These bonds offer a key

opportunity for China to integrate the pricing of nature-related risks and

performance into financial markets. This would build and expand its existing market capabilities, and catalyse the issuance and trading of these

financial instruments in domestic and international markets.

The report sets out three practical steps that China could take, which

include: advancing research on prospects for nature-specific debt

instruments and nature-supporting market arrangements; participating in

international initiatives to advance the integration of nature in debt markets;

and developing a programme of innovative domestic pilots to underpin an

international leadership role in issuance and trading.

This report has been developed as a contribution to the Special Policy

Study on Green Finance of the China Council on International Cooperation

on Environment and Development (CCICED).

>> Download the report

Comments and queries about this proposal, and other work of F4B, can be addressed to contact@f4b-initiative.net.