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Scotland’s campaign to cancel climate debt

6 September, 2021
By Emily Macpherson of Jubilee Scotland

Climate debt is a key issue that needs to be urgently addressed at COP26 to achieve climate justice, says Emily Macpherson from Jubilee Scotland.

In 2019, the debt burden of the world’s poorest countries reached a record US$744 billion – many of them ‘servicing’ unjust debts made to undemocratic rulers to fund weapons purchases, or other projects that harmed human rights or the environment at the expense of ordinary citizens.

Climate finance is another mechanism by which poor nations are having to pay for measures to combat the climate change caused by rich nations.

Much of the funding promised in the Paris Agreement being made as commercial loans rather than grants – further indebting nations that can least afford it, and leaving them even more vulnerable to climate instability.

Climate debt concerns the moral debt between countries in the Global North, and those nations and communities that suffer the most from climate change.

The ongoing global pandemic has only exacerbated this divide, and burdened those already debt-stressed nations with more loans.


“Climate debt needs to be recognised as the critical topic it is – and just, equitable alternatives need to be implemented in order for global efforts to slow down climate change to be effective.”

Emily Macpherson of Jubilee Scotland

While the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have provided financial initiatives to assist the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Institute for Environment and Development note that this doesn’t “go far enough to maintain critical climate and nature spending in order to prevent future potentially catastrophic climate and nature-induced economic damage”.

There are however alternative routes to helping lower-income countries’ debt, such as replacing loans with finance grants or aid and, of course, the cancellation of current unsustainable and unjust debts.

“What is needed going forward are a better set of policies, both national and international, that will help each country deal with the worst [of climate change]”, says Robert Buhr, an honorary research fellow at Imperial College London’s Centre for Climate Finance and Investment.

In the lead-up to COP26, climate debt needs to be recognised as the critical topic it is – and just, equitable alternatives need to be considered and promptly implemented in order for global efforts to slow down climate change to be effective.

Jubilee Scotland’s climate debt campaign aims to raise awareness of the injustice of climate debt, and encourage the Scottish Government and members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) to table alternative innovative solutions to climate debt as a matter of social justice at COP26, anchored by local priorities and voices.

The campaign will put pressure on MSPs to recognise the significance of Scotland’s role as host of COP26 and the platform from which they can influence other governments to prioritise climate justice, and more specifically climate debt.

We need your help too! Learn more about climate debt and contact your local MSPs asking that they acknowledge and raise this global problem in the lead-up to COP26 with the sense of urgency it demands.

Join Jubilee Scotland in spreading the word that without climate debt relief for those countries which are suffering the most, we are damning any global effort to protect the future of the planet and people.

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