By Ebi Kesiena
Kenyan President William Ruto and the heads of two major climate and finance organizations, have stated that the world’s poorest continent won’t be able to deal with climate change without a moratorium on interest payments on foreign debt.
Ruto and his co-writers stated this in an opinion piece published by the New York Times on Sunday.
According to President Ruto, high debt levels built up by African nations during the global pandemic to finance their citizens and economies, have left the continent paying more in loan servicing charges than it needs to invest in climate resilience projects.
“Countries in the West often plead with us to invest in the kind of ambitious resilience projects we need to survive in a warming world. We can’t fix the climate issue unless we fix the debt issue.” the writers said
Ruto wrote the piece with Akinwumi Adesina, the president of the African Development Bank, Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the African Union Commission, and Patrick Verkooijen, chief executive officer of The Rotterdam-based Global Center on Adaptation.
The writers noted that Africa needs $50 billion a year for climate adaptation, citing a Global Center on Adaptation study. That compares with the more than $60 billion that will be paid to service debts this year.
“Africa urgently needs a pause in debt repayments so that it can prepare for a world of ever-greater climate extremes,” they said, calling for such a measure to be discussed at the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Marrakesh, Morocco, this week.
In addition to an interest payment pause, they said innovative financing measures such as debt-for-nature swaps should be used to provide the funds needed. That would involve forgiving a portion of a nation’s debt in exchange for it investing in environmental conservation.
“The World Bank and the IMF now recognize that climate change is a new threat to economic and financial stability, they are changing their lending policies in response. But much more needs to be done and we are running out of time to do so.
“Africa is doing all it can to adapt to the consequences of climate change that are not of its making,” they said. “But it cannot adapt alone.” they said.
All their argument is that while they contributed almost nothing to the climate crisis unlike industrialized nations, they are bearing the brunt of its impact.