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Repay climate debt

A wealthy minority of the world’s countries, corporations and people are the principal cause of climate change; its adverse effects fall first and foremost on the majority that is poor. This basic and undeniable truth forms the foundation of the global climate justice movement. A fair and science-based solution calls on wealthy polluters to pay for climate solutions and to “make whole” those most affected by the climate crisis. 


Wealthy countries, corporations and people are responsible for climate change

However you look at it the causes of climate change reflect a consistent pattern: 

  • Wealthy countries have emitted the vast majority of historical greenhouse gas emissions, while they only represent 20% of the world’s population. 

  • Just 100 companies are the source of over 70% of greenhouse gasses since 1988.

  • The richest 10% of people globally emit more than half of current emissions, and receive more than half of global income.


Poor countries and people suffer first and worst

  • The world’s poor have contributed least to the climate crisis but are its first victims. 

  • At greatest risk are vulnerable countries, communities and people, including women, children, elders, indigenous peoples, poor rural and urban communities, small- scale farmers, fisher-folk, forest communities, and youth and future generations. 


Climate debt and reparations must be honored

  • Wealthy countries, corporations and people owe a two-fold climate debt to poor countries and people.

  • For their historical and continuing excessive emissions – denying others their fair share of atmospheric space – they have an “emissions debt”.

  • For their contributions to the adverse effects of climate change – requiring others to adapt to rising climate impacts and damage – they have an “adaptation debt”. 


A fair and science-based solution is required

  • The way to solve the climate crisis in a fair and scientifically-sound way is to honor climate debts. 

  • Climate debt formed the basis of proposals by Bolivia and numerous others in UN negotiations. 

  • Civil society organizations have expanded and developed the concept, evaluating whether states are fulfilling their “fair shares” of the emissions reductions. This is set out in the Civil Society Equity Review (  

  • It shows many developing countries are pledging to do more than their ‘fair share’ to cut emissions while rich countries are dangerously failing to pull their weight. 


Repay climate debt

  • Repaying climate debt focuses not merely on emissions reductions or financial compensation.

  • It focuses on restorative justice – on “making whole” those people and members of the community of life on Earth that are adversely affected by climate change. 

  • Fighting for reparations for climate debt owed by those most responsible for climate change is an essential element of the broader effort to address the root causes of climate change.


For more information see:
World People’s Conference on Climate Change
Paris Climate Justice Briefs, Climate Debt

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