The world’s poorest nations are trapped under so much debt they are unable to meet the challenges of climate change. Developing countries are by and large the least responsible for, and most vulnerable to, climate-fueled disasters. “We want to see this debt canceled because the debt is — as some of our activists refer to it — the knee on the neck of the Global South. Debt is killing us, and it’s making our people suffer,” Sunny Morgan, co-leader of the Debt for Climate campaign, told E&E.

Well over half (60%) of low-income countries assessed by the UN Development Programme in a report released Tuesday are, or are at risk of “debt distress,” double the number seven years ago. A separate report by the European Network on Debt and Development found small island states in an especially critical position, with 37 nations paying more than 18 times on debt service what they receive in climate finance. In 2019, those nations’ public debt was close to 66% of GDP, but that jumped to nearly 83% in 2020 and is expected to remain above 70% through 2025. Calls for debt forgiveness are growing, and the reports’ releases come as World Bank and International Monetary Fund leaders meet in Washington DC. (UNDP report: AP, Reuters; Island states: Reuters; Bretton Woods meeting: E&E $)