The nations of the Global South are ready and ready leave their fossil fuels in the ground; right now they just can’t afford it. In 2007, for example, the newly elected President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, pledged not to touch a large amount of oil lying under the Yasuní National Park. In return, he sought an international commitment representing at least half of the expected revenue that extraction would provide over the next decade. These contributions would be set up a fund, whose interest would fund sustainable initiatives. Hailed as a revolutionary plan, in 2013 it was canceled. The world had promised less than 10% of what Correa was looking for, and less than 10% of that promise was honored – a meager $13.3 million. Correa sentenced the “hypocrisy” of the Global North. “It was not charity we were looking for,” he explained, “but co-responsibility in the face of climate change.”

However, calling rich and poor countries “co-responsible” for climate change understates Correa’s case. Historically, the responsibility for the climate crisis lies overwhelmingly with the countries of the North, which since 2015 was responsible for more than 90% of global excess emissions. In this sense, the North has its own debt, both ecological and moral, built up from centuries of colonialism, of brutal imperialist extraction. Acción Ecológica based in Ecuador defined it as“the debt accumulated by the industrialized countries of the North towards the countries of the third world due to the plunder of resources, environmental damage and the free occupation of the environmental space to deposit waste there”.

The Global North has not paid its dues. Its current goal is to disburse $100 billion in climate finance each year – a modest and insufficient goal that rich countries have yet to reach, despite including private investment and, you guessed it, loans. debt generators. Other initiatives, such as debt-for-nature swaps— where debt is forgiven in exchange for the implementation of creditor-determined green policies — are merely “ornamental ways to clear our way to favor extraction and exploitation,” Esteban said.