Protecting vast areas of the ocean doesn’t just affect the environment – it boosts the resiliency of economies that rely on tourism and fishing, and improves the safety of people living in coastal areas facing storms and sea-level rise. 

Currently, however, less than seven per cent of the world’s oceans have received protection. For many countries, the issue isn’t lack of interest – the problem is that marine protection is expensive and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) have been working to address this. 

Earlier this year eight winners from The Audacious Project – an initiative that invites change-makers to submit their best and boldest ideas for tackling the world’s biggest challenges – were announced at the TED conference in Los Angeles. TNC were named as one of the winners. 

TNC have a key insight: that many island and coastal nations with significant marine area to protect have high debt burdens. Their idea is to buy that debt at a discount, restructure it with better interest rates and longer repayment terms, and partner with a multilateral institution to guarantee the debt package – in exchange for the government’s commitment to use the savings generated to protect at least 30 per cent of their marine areas. 

By offering investors blue bonds for ocean conservation and by raising the capital to fuel this exchange, TNC predict that they could protect four million square kilometres of ocean over the next five years. 

At a time when our need for positive global change has never been greater, The Audacious Project continues to encourage the world’s greatest change-agents to dream bigger, to shape the best ideas into viable multi-year plans, and to present those ideas in a compelling way to potential supporters. It has a simple, ultimate goal: to make philanthropy more collaborative and more effective.

Over the next five years, TNC will work with 20 island and coastal nations to negotiate debt conversions for ocean conservation. They will partner with a global development bank or other institution to provide loan guarantees or risk insurance that will make the new debt package a better deal for the country and a safer bet for investors. 

The Audacious Project was brought to life through the collaboration of some of the most respected names in the non-profit world, including Skoll, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Scott Cook & Signe Ostby and more. Virgin Unite is proud to be one of the key partners to have joined forces to help make this possible.