We are a grassroots, Global South-driven initiative connecting social & climate justice struggles by uniting labor, social and climate movements from the Global South & North toward a common goal of turning debt-trap diplomacy on its head by canceling the debt of impoverished nations as a way to pay for leaving fossil fuels in the ground and financing a just transition. The implementation of a global Debt-for-Climate initiative has the potential to leave trillions of dollars in fossil fuel reserves in the ground, while freeing countries from a strangling debt burden often used as a tool for further extraction of natural resources.

We are coming together again on February 27, 2023 to turn the tables on financial colonialism on the 70th anniversary of Germany´s debt cancellation after WWII, which enabled that country´s “Economic Miracle”. If debt could be cancelled back then for the country responsible for WWII, it can definitely be cancelled to enable a just transition in the Global South! Join us around the world to hold the Global North accountable for its climate debt!

Developed countries of the global North owe an ecological debt to the countries of the global South. In addition to being responsible for the highest historical emissions of greenhouse gases, their exploitation and colonization of most of the global South still continues today through their multinational corporations with the systematic plundering of natural resources. According to scientific studies, 100 multinationals are responsible for 71% of global industrial emissions. A large part of these emissions are a consequence of the exploitation of the South, fueling a system of unsustainable consumption and waste in privileged classes of rich countries at the cost of the growing destruction and sacrifice of populations in countries of the global South.

These same high-emitting nations are responsible for exploiting, colonizing and enslaving much of the rest of the world for centuries. Thus, Debt for Climate demands that the richest countries of the Global North begin to pay their climate debt, and this encompasses the demands for reparations, loss and damage, and climate finance which must not come in the form of loans but as interest-free payments. Debt for Climate demands the unconditional cancellation of the illegitimate debts, often awarded illegally and unconstitutionally.

Continuing this colonialism of natural resources is incompatible with the climate commitments assumed and promoted by most developed countries. Scientific evidence shows that the current operations of the fossil industry, coupled with future projections that only contemplate more growth and expansion, are seriously undermining the climate commitments such as Paris Agreement, rendering them impossible to fulfill. As a counterpart to this reality, the countries of the global South that have contributed the least to the climate crisis will bear the brunt of its consequences, as has already begun to happen today, facing increasing droughts and floods, social destabilization and mass migration that will beget hundreds of millions of climate refugees in the coming decades.

Global South countries, as well as some peripheral countries within the global North itself, are at the same time economically strangled by massive financial debts granted by international financial institutions under the control of the wealthiest global North countries, such as the IMF, the World Bank, the Paris Club, etc. Financial strangulation translates into political strangulation for the benefit of the interests of the developed countries that control these organizations and their companies, employing well-known mechanisms of debt-trap diplomacy to deepen the neocolonial plundering of the natural resources of the subjugated countries. In many cases, these are also odious debts, obtained illegally and /or through corruption, oftentimes unconstitutionally, with de facto governments, and/or in violation of the statutes of the credit organizations themselves.

Argentina became an emblematic case of resistance against debt-trap colonialism when, in 2001, mass popular uprisings ousted the government and its IMF-dictated policies, leading to a default and renegotiation of the debt. In a tragic twist of history, 20 years later Argentina finds itself again in the grips of the IMF, which granted the largest loan in its history (U$S 44 Billion) to help right-wing president Macri win his reelection bid. It did so braking its own statute and without approval of the Argentinean Congress. Now, Macri’s successor government is negotiating a new deal with the IMF, which would legitimize the illegal prior deal while getting more into debt to be able to pay back the prior loan. This perverse cycle and the dramatic economic and environmental consequences of the plundering associated with the IMF mandates are leading hundreds of thousands of people back to the streets. 20 years later, the Argentinean people may again lead the way against this debt-trap colonialism and are calling for the people of the world to join this global action!

There is a global movement calling for colonial reparations, loss and damage, and the cancellation of the international debts of impoverished nations and these voices are multiplying almost daily After the enormous economic blow caused by the COVID-19 pandemic on those countries, there has been a multiplication of voices calling for the cancellation of the debts of the global South. However, it is unlikely that the same countries responsible for the historical plunder and colonialism that control the international lending agencies will give in to such demands out of mere goodwill and generosity.

Initiatives to date asking developed countries to pay of leaving fossil fuels in the ground in countries of the Global South have not been successful either, as was the case with the Yasuní-ITT Initiative form Ecuador over a decade ago. However, there is a widespread consensus that the global North should begin to pay its ecological debt to the global South by paying for them to be able to leave their fossil fuels in the ground.

Debts are a financial asset whose repayment depends on the sovereign states that have contracted them. Together our social, labor and climate movements from the global South-North can build enough pressure on the streets from both sides of the spectrum to create the necessary political will to cancel the debts within the framework of the climate crisis.

The IMF and the World Bank have already incorporated the concept of the "Green Debt Swap" and similar initiatives exist in other organizations. However, this has much more to do with greenwashing tactics, green colonialism and potential eco-austerity policies - not true financial decolonization or climate action initiatives that affect their real economic interests or those of their corporations.

Next February 27th, we will mobilize globally putting the focus on the case of Germany as one of the greatest examples of the Global North´s double standards on debt and the power of debt cancellation. Germany is the world´s fourth-largest historic polluter and owes much of its economic prosperity to the cancellation of its own debt after WWII. As the fourth-largest voting power in the IMF, they not only have the responsibility but also the power to take the lead in pushing for debt cancellation for MAPA countries to enable a just transition that would entail unprecedented climate action! Join us to build pressure internationally and hold them accountable for their climate obligations to the Global South!

As a campaign led by the global South and worker formations like labor unions, Debt for Climate can be very disruptive to the prevailing narrative. If correctly managed and executed this could be a game changer for the climate movement. It is an opportune time to place JUSTICE at the forefront of the climate movement and to create the very foundation for actual change to happen. As long as countries are entangled in debt traps, there simply is no space and no money to finance a just transition. To cancel the debt at the same time as funding leaving fossil fuels where they belong – underground – is the necessary clean slate that enables veritable and self-determined change, led from the bottom-up and no longer top-down.

Join us to build together a bridge to unite labor, social and climate movements around the world to turn financial colonialism on its head and achieve some of the quickest and greatest victories possible in the climate fight by cancelling enormous debts while keeping huge amounts of fossil fuels in the ground!