Letter: Paying for pollution

Sir: For the last 200 years, wealth creation in the industrialised countries has been running up an environmental debt on the global account (" `Too late to stop global warming' ", 16 September). The scale of this debt dwarfs the financial debt owed by developing countries to their polluting creditors. Because of this, such "external" debts should be cancelled forthwith.

This global debt arises with the accumulation of pollution from fossil fuel consumption in the "commons" of the global atmosphere. This pollution mirrors the wealth and shows that those making the money have been making the mess.

The scale and rate of this build up of "greenhouse gases" are completely without precedent. To an alarming degree, we are all already locked into long-term global trends of increasing and potentially unqualifiable social and environmental damages. This is the real debt crisis.

Continuing with this increasing chaos may well trigger the ultimate threat to human society - a "runaway greenhouse effect" beyond the relevance of human "policy" to avert or adjust to it. In this context of rising risk, it is simply absurd to continue to uphold the legitimacy of the unrepayable external debts of very poor countries.

The debts were odious without climate change. These countries that are repeatedly "restructured" to repay them are now additionally exposed to the increasing risks and traumas of climate changes caused by accumulating pollution from their "creditors".

Developing countries - in their own as well as everyone's interest - will have to become part of the arrangements for the restraint of global greenhouse gas pollution. However, as a precondition of developing countries negotiating future commitments to restrain their pollution, the "external" debts should be cancelled outright and immediately.

AUBREY MEYER

Director

Global Commons Institute

London NW2

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