By many accounts, Belize is a conservation success story, and a role model when it comes to climate and biodiversity action. While the country is only about the size of the U.S. state of New Jersey, it is dense with flora and fauna unique to this part of the Caribbean and Central America, and much of that treasure lies along its cerulean coast. But the nation’s natural assets are more than just a point of pride: they represent a large and vital part of its economy.

The Belize Barrier Reef System features three of four coral atolls in the Atlantic, lush mangrove forests, numerous offshore islands, and one of the most extensive seagrass areas in the Caribbean. It hosts 77 species listed as threatened by the IUCN, including a sizeable population of West Indian Manatees.

Now, Belize has reaffirmed its environmental leadership by becoming the first country in the Americas to finalize a debt conversion for ocean conservation—and one that represents an impact investment for marine protection that’s unprecedented in scale. This commitment will enable Belize to restructure approximately US$550 million of external commercial debt—an amount that represents 30 percent of the country’s GDP—and reduce the national debt by 12 percent.

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