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Sierra Leone President flags unsustainable debt hampering climate action at COP26

Today at COP26, President Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone, raised debt as a key barrier to  fighting the climate emergency.

President Julius Maada Bio highlighted how unsustainable debt was hampering action on climate change, stating that:

due to high debt servicing, Sierra Leone lacks the fiscal space to scale up investments in climate change actions.”

President Bio emphasised that without concrete action to fund climate action from wealthy, polluting nations:

good climate policies and ambitions alone, such as ours in Sierra Leone, may however fall short”

Many  countries at high risk of climate-related disasters are struggling with unsustainable levels of debt, hindering their ability to address the climate crisis and recover from the pandemic. Last year alone, lower income countries spent £372 billion on debt repayments. Sierra Leone, one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change, spent 18% of total government revenue on external debt repayments in 2020.

Abu Bakarr Kamara from the Budget Advocacy Network in Sierra Leone said:

“Sierra Leone is battling a debt crisis, the climate emergency and the pandemic. We need debt relief so we can address these multiple crises. Our President’s call for urgent action on debt cannot be ignored and must be addressed as a key part of climate action at COP26.  We are facing the devastation and deathly impacts from a climate crisis we did not create. Wealthy nations must step up and offer climate vulnerable countries like Sierra Leone debt relief and deliver on their promises of climate finance in the form of grants so we can address the climate crisis”.

Heidi Chow, Director of Jubilee Debt Campaign, said:

“Countries on the frontline of the climate emergency like Sierra Leone are hamstrung by high levels of unsustainable debt that are diverting resources away from fighting the climate crisis.  Global South governments have been calling for action on debt to help countries tackle the climate emergency for many years, but wealthy polluting nations are ignoring these demands. Any chance of climate justice at COP26 depends on prioritising the demands of lower income countries for debt justice”

Notes

The Jubilee Debt Campaign is a UK charity working to end poverty caused by unjust debt through education, research and campaigning: http://www.jubileedebt.org.uk

The Budget Advocacy Network is part of a coalition in Sierra Leone working on debt justice and accountability, highlighting the challenges unstainable debt poses to finance climate change adaptation and mitigation. The coalition also comprises of the following organisations: Christian Aid, Action Aid and Oxfam.

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