Incentivized debt conversion is a financing mechanism that can assist countries with a heavy debt burden to bolster their long‐term domestic investment in nature conservation. The Nature Conservancy, an international conservation‐based nongovernmental organization, is adapting debt conversions to support marine conservation efforts by small island developing states and coastal countries. Prioritizing debt conversion opportunities according to their potential return on investment can increase the impact and effectiveness of this finance mechanism. We developed guidance on how to do so with a decision‐support approach that relies on a novel threat‐based adaptation of cost‐effectiveness analysis. We constructed scenarios by varying parameters of the approach, including enabling conditions, expected benefits, and threat classifications. Incorporating both abatable and unabatable threats affected priorities across planning scenarios. Similarly, differences in scenario construction resulted in unique solution sets for top priorities. We show how environmental organizations, private entities, and investment banks can adopt structured prioritization frameworks for making decisions about conservation finance investments, such as debt conversions. Our guidance can accommodate a suite of social, ecological, and economic considerations, making the approach broadly applicable to other conservation finance mechanisms or investment strategies that seek to establish a transparent process for return‐on‐investment decision‐making.
Article impact statement : Prioritizations that explicitly incorporate abatable and unabatable threats can improve conservation return on investment decision‐making.