Bishop Martyn argues for UK to support climate-resilience in low-income nations

On Thursday 11 January, Bishop Martyn spoke in the House of Lords about how the Government should respond to the impact of climate change on developing nations. You can watch a recording of his speech here.

He made a moral case for the UK to intervene to support the climate resilience of low-income countries on the grounds that “those nations which are being, and will yet be, most affected by climate change are those who have contributed least to the crisis” and “much of the funds which fuelled our industrial revolution, wherein were sown the seeds of climate change, were generated by extracting and exploiting the resources of many of those regions – most devastatingly through the transatlantic chattel slave trade.”

Bishop Martyn affirmed the Government’s recent International Development White Paper, which prioritises tackling climate change, building partnerships on mutual respect, supporting local leadership; and speaks of the Government’s ambition to “engage with humility and acknowledge our past”.

One of the obstacles to low-income countries becoming climate-resilient, Bishop Martyn observed, is the costs they have to spend on debt payments:

“According to the World Bank, in 2022 the external debts of countries with low and middle incomes reached $9 trillion - double the figure in 2010. The cost of servicing these debt payments itself is crippling – in Nigeria, a quarter of public spending goes on debt servicing payments.

“And these costs drain funds away from what is needed to become climate-resilient. Analysis by Development Finance International has shown that lower income countries are spending over 12 times more on debt payments than they are on adapting to the climate crisis. Indeed, some are turning to fossil fuel extraction to generate the revenue needed to reduce the burden.”

Many countries’ debts are now owed to private commercial entities rather than organisations like the IMF, World Bank or other countries – and as such, they are overseen by English law. With this in mind, Bishop Martyn stated “we are in a unique position to legislate for private creditors to offer debt relief so climate-vulnerable countries can invest in adapting to the changes that are to come.”

He ended by urging the Government to revisit the International Development Committee’s report on Debt Relief and reconsider its recommendation for new legislation so that the new priority given to addressing climate change in the International Development White Paper can be realised as far as possible.



First published on: 12th January 2024
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