Going Green to Get Out of Debt

ABC News: Jerika Richardson: June 30, 2009

In an effort to help save some of the world's disappearing tropical forests the United States is offering Indonesia some much needed debt relief.

Today, the Indonesian government signed a "debt-for-nature swap agreement" with the U.S. "under the Tropical Forest Conservation Act that will reduce the Indonesia's debt payments by nearly $30 million over eight years," the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta said.

According to a statement released by the embassy, the Indonesia government has agreed to use the $30 million saved to support grants for tropical rainforest conservation organizations, Indonesian Biodiversity Foundation and Conservation International .

This deal is the first ever in Indonesia's history and it's also groundbreaking for the U.S. because it stands as the "largest debt-for-nature swap of its kind thus far," it said.

Indonesia's Sumatra Island has tropical forests which are home to hundreds of endangered bird, plant, and mammal species like the Sumatran tiger, elephant, and rhino which only exist on the island.

However, the growing demand for palm oil, lumber and paper have left Sumatra particularly vulnerable to deforestation "which contributes about 80% of Indonesia's carbon emissions; Indonesia has the world's third highest rate of carbon emissions," the statement said.

The U.S. believes these conservation pacts will help preserve biodiversity. "Indonesia is one of the most biologically diverse countries on earth," U.S. Ambassador Cameron R. Hume said. Funds generated by the debt-for-nature program will help Indonesia protect critical forest habitats in Sumatra.

Twelve other countries have signed similar agreements under the Tropical Forest Conservation Act and combined "will generate over $218 million" for tropical rainforest protection, said the embassy.