Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, in coordination with seven other Catholic groups, delivered a letter to President Biden, Treasury Secretary Yellen, and Secretary of State Blinken bearing signatures from over a thousand Catholics, requesting that debt forgiveness and restructuring be part of COP28 climate agenda. Download as a PDF.
October 31, 2023
Dear President Biden, Special Envoy Kerry, and Secretary Yellen,
We write to ask that you place the forgiveness of debt and the restructuring of debt as values and solutions within your agenda for COP28. It can unlock critical funding to help developing nations meet their goals under the Paris Agreement, adapt to climate change, and address loss and damage.
Our Catholic faith instructs us to prioritize the needs of our poor and vulnerable neighbors and to care for God’s creation. Pope Francis said “We must continue to be aware that, regarding climate change, there are differentiated responsibilities. As the United States bishops have said, greater attention must be given to ‘the needs of the poor, the weak and the vulnerable, in a debate often dominated by more powerful interests.’” (Laudato Si’, 52) We witness that the peoples of developing countries, least responsible for the climate crisis, suffer many of the most devastating impacts. By 2050, 216 million people in developing nations may be forced to migrate due to climate change. (World Bank)
The international response is well short of the need. Developing countries need nearly $6 trillion by 2030 to meet less than half of their goals under the Paris Agreement. (UNFCCC) The current UNFCCC climate finance goal of $100b per year does not meet that need. (OECD) Meanwhile, many developing nations also drown in debt. Between 2011-2021, 59 developing nations spent $234 billion paying off debts while receiving $136 billion for projects designed to address climate change. (IIED) Debt financing and interest rates in servicing debt makes it difficult for governments to provide their citizens with education, health and climate resilience. Our responses to these challenges must be transformational and grounded in justice and good governance by all parties.
Forgiveness and restructuring of the sovereign debt of developing countries is one such solution. It would release hundreds of billions of dollars that developing nations desperately need to implement climate solutions that can protect their peoples while transitioning away from fossil fuels. (IIED) Forgiveness of debt would respond simultaneously and substantively to the polycrises of crippling debt, societal instability, climate impacts, and ecological degradation, under which our vulnerable neighbors suffer profoundly.
We write to ask that you place the forgiveness of debt and the restructuring of debt as values and solutions within your agenda for COP28. While the UNFCCC alone cannot take on this issue, it is an important forum to promote solutions among relevant institutions and governments that address the massive gap between the needs and the resources in climate finance. It builds upon the momentum generated by the Bridgetown Initiative, the Loss and Damage Fund, and calls for reforms of multilateral development banks and international financial institutions. Our nation has a bipartisan track record of leading on international debt solutions. Therefore, we ask that the United States lead the global community in prioritizing the forgiveness of debt and restructuring of debt as critical components of climate finance.
If we are serious about addressing the climate crisis and alleviating human suffering, then those of us whose basic needs are comfortably met must prioritize the interests of vulnerable peoples who lack them. It is a central tenet of our Catholic faith. It is necessary if we are to envision a just and thriving world for all. We hope you will step ever more fully into this vision, and pray that together, we will realize it for our common home, and the common good.
Submitted in faith,
Catholic Climate Covenant
Laudato Si’ Movement
Ignatian Solidarity Network
Sisters of Mercy
Franciscan Action Network
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
St. Columban Mission
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Image of the logos of the Catholic Organizational sign-ons.