What happened on debt at COP27?

A win! COP27 summit agree to a new fund to fight loss and damage

As the COP27 climate conference finished at the weekend, climate campaigners condemned the failure to agree a phase-out all fossil fuels and emissions reduction. However, alongside the anger at the lack of political will and inaction, there was also a huge victory – a new fund has been agreed to address the loss and damage unleashed by climate-driven disasters.  

Civil society groups and campaigners from across the world have been fighting for this fund for decades. Debt Justice campaigners together with thousands of others had ramped up the pressure ahead of last weeks COP, making this a real win for our global movement.  

Thousands of you joined marches, made placards, signed petitions and came to events in solidarity with this campaign. Every action counts.  

Debt Justice, National Activist Gathering: Banner making session. [Photo credit: Jess Hurd]
Global day of Action for Climate Justice, London march. [Photo credit: Ali Levy]

Demonstrations for climate justice took place in every corner of the world as we marched in solidarity with people on the frontlines of the debt and climate crisis.

Thousands gather for climate justice, Egypt. [Photo credit: Bianka Csenski]

Together with the global climate justice movement, we have demonstrated our collective power to push wealthy governments to take responsibility. This new fund means that rich governments have agreed to the principle of paying compensation for unleashing climate devastation in lower income countries.  

But there’s still more to do, we‘ll be keeping up the pressure with our global allies to ensure this fund provides grant-based finance at a level needed to meet the scale of the crisis. This would mean that countries won’t be forced into more debt to pay for a crisis they didn’t create.   

For now, we celebrate the power of the global movement that has forced this onto the agenda and pushed relentlessly to make it happen.  

Debt and the climate crisis: taking our message to the heart of COP27

We went to COP to push for the new loss and damage fund and ensure solutions to the climate emergency do not create more debt. We also went to sound the alarm bells about the debt crisis and push for debt cancellation in the face of the climate crisis.  

The debt crisis is preventing countries from responding to the climate crisis, as debt repayments divert resources to lining the pockets of wealthy lenders, countries are pushed to the brink of economic collapse. On average, lower income countries are spending five times more in debt repayments than on fighting the climate crisis.  

We put our demands to global media as I had the opportunity to speak at a press conference at COP to launch our new report on debt and climate and highlight that Sub-Saharan African countries are set to take out $1 trillion in debt if adequate grant-based financing is not agreed.  

Heidi Chow at Climate Action Network International’s press conference on debt and climate justice, 16 Nov, Egypt.

In spite of restrictions on protests, we organised a demonstration inside COP27 with our global allies. We heard from speakers from Africa, Latin America and Asia about the impact of the debt and climate crises and ensured their voices were heard inside the conference.  

Genn from Fridays for Future and Scientist Rebellion, Chile said:

“We are not asking more than the global cooperation to tackle the climate crisis. The south is drowning and dying as we are being strangled by the financial debt of the financial scheme that we did not create.”  

Farooq Tariq from Kissan Rabita Committee in Pakistan also spoke powerfully:

“Now we have Pakistan’s flooding and rain which has impacted 33 million people, still half of them are on the roads in these circumstances… we cannot pay, we will not pay. Debt must be abolished for climate justice” 

Lower income countries are also being hit relentlessly by catastrophic climate disasters. In Pakistan, widespread flooding in August destroyed homes, towns, farmlands, crops and infrastructure. Pakistan was already in a debt crisis, paying out $50 million a day in debt repayments. It is due to pay $18bn this year alone, which represents 40% of government income.  

But now Pakistan is also facing a bill of around $40 billion for the damage. Like many other lower income countries, it is responsible for less than one percent of global carbon emissions and yet it faces a worsening debt crisis to pay for a climate disaster that it had no responsibility for causing.  

Farooq spoke at our recent webinar, you can hear more about how Pakistan is coping with the floods here

What’s next? Building the global movement for debt and climate justice 

The People’s Plenary was convened a few days before the end of COP to approve a People’s Declaration which was collectively drafted by different social movements and constituencies from across the world. It is a powerful declaration which sets out what is needed to achieve climate justice and includes the demand for debt cancellation and grant-based climate finance.  

The final official COP outcome also recognises the role that the debt crisis is having on the ability of global south countries to respond to the climate crisis. This shows that your campaigning is having a real impact in showing how debt and the climate crises are two sides of the same coin.   

There is still much to do to win climate and debt justice but we come back from COP feeling inspired by the collective power of the global movement. We will continue to stand in solidarity with people on the front lines of both crises and amplifying their voices and demands through our campaigns. And we remain ready and determined, in solidarity with a powerful global movement, to keep fighting for debt and climate justice.

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