Pope Francis Says Global North Owes ‘Ecological Debt’ to Global South

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ROME — Pope Francis told financiers Thursday they must help calculate the “ecological debt” the global north owes to the global south.

We cannot overlook “the ‘ecological debt’ that exists especially between the global north and south,” the pontiff said in a letter to participants in a meeting of the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund.

“We are, in fact, in debt to nature itself,” the pope asserted, “as well as the people and countries affected by human-induced ecological degradation and biodiversity loss.”

“In this regard, I believe that the financial industry, which is distinguished by its great creativity, will prove capable of developing agile mechanisms for calculating this ecological debt,” Francis continued, “so that developed countries can pay it, not only by significantly limiting their consumption of non-renewable energy or by assisting poorer countries to enact policies and programmes of sustainable development, but also by covering the costs of the innovation required for that purpose.”

In his letter, the pope said he was responding to an invitation to address the participants in the 2021 Spring Meetings of the financial groups.

As he has done on other occasions, the pope also called for a new model for the global economy, one that will offer “new, more inclusive and sustainable solutions to support the real economy, assisting individuals and communities to achieve their deepest aspirations and the universal common good.”

Recovery from the coronavirus pandemic “cannot be content to a return to an unequal and unsustainable model of economic and social life, where a tiny minority of the world’s population owns half of its wealth,” he declared.

For all our deeply held convictions that all men and women are created equal, Francis said, “many of our brothers and sisters in the human family, especially those at the margins of society, are effectively excluded from the financial world.”

“As experts in finance and economics, you know well that trust, born of the interconnectedness between people, is the cornerstone of all relationships, including financial relationships,” he said, while urging his audience to use their ingenuity to devise new, more equitable systems.

There remains “an urgent need for a global plan that can create new or regenerate existing institutions, particularly those of global governance, and help to build a new network of international relations for advancing the integral human development of all peoples,” the pope insisted.

“This necessarily means giving poorer and less developed nations an effective share in decision-making and facilitating access to the international market,” he said, as well as debt relief and “access to vaccines, health, education and jobs.”

“In this regard, we especially need a justly financed vaccine solidarity, for we cannot allow the law of the marketplace to take precedence over the law of love and the health of all,” he said.

Francis concluded his letter by expressing hope in a future “where finance is at the service of the common good, where the vulnerable and the marginalized are placed at the centre, and where the earth, our common home, is well cared for.”

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