Cancel Global South debt and deliver $7.9 trillion in climate reparations NOW
October 12, 2023 by Extinction Rebellion
Climate justice campaigners demand cancellation of Global South’s crippling debt repayments which are a just a fraction of the $7.9 trillion in climate reparations owed to it by the Global North
Climate justice activists gathered outside the Bank of England today (12 October) to demonstrate how the Global South’s crippling debt repayments are 65 times smaller than the staggering $7.9 trillion in climate reparations owed to them by the countries of the Global North.
The campaigners, from groups including Extinction Rebellion, Debt for Climate, Money Rebellion and Debt Justice, unfurled a massive banner outside the bank, emblazoned with the words: “CANCEL GLOBAL SOUTH DEBT”.
Measuring 1.5 m x 5.4m, the banner is 65 times bigger than a single A3 sheet of paper, reflecting the fact that the bill for climate change is 65 times greater than the Global South debt. “Scales of Justice” were erected as 65 large sacks were piled high, in a further startling representation of the inequality.
The protest was timed to coincide with the ‘Reform Priorities for Tackling Debt’ event being held during the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Black Rock, Standard Chartered Bank and the UK Government are expected to be present to discuss the current untenable debt situation.
Today’s protest outside the Bank of England is part of a wave of protests across the globe. Throughout Africa, Latin America, and Europe, from Colombia to Uganda, Mexico, Tanzania and South Africa, UK and Germany, Debt for Climate, Extinction Rebellion and many other activist groups, are mobilising over the next four days with nonviolent actions, marches, and protests, urging immediate debt cancellation of Global South debt to enable a self-determined and just energy transition.
Cathy Allen of Debt for Climate explained: “The Global North countries owe a climate debt of $7.9 trillion per year. That’s 65 times more than the annual debt repayments which burden the Global South. There shouldn’t be any discussion about debt reform in Marrakech. Poorer countries need the money to cope with climate breakdown.”
In order to pay back debt in ‘hard currency’ countries of the Global South have to sign contracts with foreign companies who want to exploit their resources. Instead of fossil fuels being left in the ground, they are extracted, often under lax environmental standards, enabling the burning of oil, gas and coal which drives climate breakdown.
All the while financial institutions like Standard Chartered and Black Rock are profiting by lending to these poorer countries at high interest rates. The UK government plays a significant role in terms of these private “cowboy” lenders because 90% of such lending is enforced through UK courts.
Heidi Chow, Executive Director of Debt Justice said: “Cancelling debt is the only sustainable, fair way of dealing with the debt crisis that is engulfing lower income countries.
“Debt repayments to external lenders should never be prioritised over meeting basic needs such as healthcare, education and fighting the climate crisis. The amounts owed in debt repayments are a drop in the ocean compared to the real debt owed by wealthy governments for centuries of extraction and pollution”
Tyrone Scott from War on Want added: “Many countries in the Global South remain locked into debt, servicing vast international loans, all while facing cost-of-living crises, rising inequality and climate breakdown which is ravaging lives and livelihoods of the world’s poorest and most marginalised.
“Today, there are 64 countries in the world which spend more on debt repayments than on their healthcare systems, let alone on adapting to the climate crisis. All while trillions continue to flow from the Global South to banks and corporations in the Global North.”
Tarun Gidwani of the South Asia Solidarity Group observed: “At a time when 54 low income countries and 93% of countries most vulnerable to climate change are in debt distress or risk thereof, it’s inexcusable that the World Bank and friends can have meetings to discuss more loans and conditions while an immense, unrecognised debt of climate justice is owed by the rich world who are not paying up.”
“There can be no further delay, debt cancellation must be at the top of the agenda. The day has come for the countries and corporations of the Global North to pay their climate bill.”
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