Pope Francis and Africa Catholic Bishops Call for Debt Relief to Fight Climate Change Impact on Developing Countries
Nearly 200 countries agreed to cut the use of all fossil fuels during COP28, the UN climate change conference that concluded in Dubai. According to the UN, the world is facing catastrophic temperature changes unless countries take more dramatic action to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels.
“While we saw important commitments in Dubai, we are not taking action quickly enough to address climate change," said Eric LeCompte who serves on United Nations expert groups and is the Executive Director of the religious development organization Jubilee USA Network. "Developing countries urgently need more resources as they wrestle with some of the worst impacts of climate change."
Developing countries need to spend $2.4 trillion on climate challenges and another $3 trillion on other development priorities, noted a group of experts commissioned by previous COP presidents.
"The Dubai agreement noted that countries need more aid, relief and cheap loans to avoid increasing debt," stated LeCompte.
In 2023, spending on debt service will be 12.5 times higher than spending on climate adaptation, according to a brief Jubilee USA Network and other organizations launched in November.Africa's Catholic Bishops said that while Africa is historically not responsible for global warming, the region suffers the highest vulnerability to it. The statement by the Justice, Peace and Development Commission of the Catholic Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) called for removing the obstacle of debt and scaling up aid to the region in the lead up to the new Jubilee 2025 year. In Pope Francis' address to COP28, delivered by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin, Francis called for solutions that do not penalize “the development of many countries, already burdened by grave economic debt,” and called for “remitting” such debts.
"We will not raise the money we need to address climate challenges without debt relief," shared LeCompte.
During the conference the World Bank announced its loans to vulnerable countries will include clauses that pause debt payments temporarily when the debtor suffers a climate-related disaster.
“Debt payment pause clauses in loan contracts are essential to more fairly share climate change burdens and impacts of disaster between creditors and debtors,” added LeCompte. “We need these types of clauses in all loan contracts.”
The conference launched a fund to compensate countries for climate-related losses, attracting initial donor pledges totaling $800 million.
“Droughts, storms, floods, poorer harvests and rising health problems are among the many climate effects hurting developing countries,” expressed LeCompte. “While we have critical commitments to raise resources to combat climate change, we will need more."