Activists block private jet airport used by WEF attendees to demand that "the rich pay their climate debt"

16.01.2023 - Since 07:30 this morning, activists from the global “Debt for Climate” movement have been blocking the arrival of attendees to the World Economic Forum (WEF) at the private airport in Altenrhein, SG. They aim to hold the richest 1% represented in Davos accountable for the climate breakdown and ecological damage caused by their extreme emissions, policies and investments. The activists demand that the rich pay their climate debt through 1) The unconditional cancellation of all foreign debts of countries in the Global South to enable a just transition 2) and that polluters pay for the loss and damage they cause in the countries most affected by the climate crisis.

Monday 16 January 2023, 15 activists are blocking the largest airport in eastern Switzerland, close to where the World Economic Forum begins today. The action is carried out by members of the global “Debt For Climate” movement in order to highlight the responsibility of those attending the WEF for the climate crisis, as part of the international "Make Them Pay" campaign. The blockade is designed to draw attention to the elites, including development banks, northern States and corporations, who are responsible for debt in the global South and the climate crisis. The activists want to bring to light struggles of working people and of those most affected by the climate crisis around the world, who are not represented in Davos.

Debt for Climate is a Global-South-led grassroots movement connecting social and climate justice struggles. It unites labour, indigenous and climate groups from the Global North and South in the shared goal of cancelling the foreign debts of impoverished nations. This demand constitutes a concrete policy for leaving fossil fuels in the ground and financing a just transition.

The movement denounces the role of the top 1% in exploiting both poor countries and working people all over the world, as well as multinational corporations in environmental degradation and human rights abuses in the Global South. It calls for an end to the undemocratic structure of the global economy symbolised by the WEF. Debt for Climate highlights the hypocrisy of the elite flying over melting glaciers to discuss "Cooperation in a Fragmented World."

"Our world shouldn't be fragmented between North and South; the real divide is between the 1% who profit from this exploitative economic system, and the rest of us who suffer its consequences. Above all, extreme accumulation and resulting inequality are driving our planet to climate breakdown" – Esteban Servat, activist from Argentina.

Cancel Global South debt to enable a just transition

To accelerate the global energy transition, Debt for Climate calls for the unconditional cancellation of all Global South foreign debt. This demand constitutes a first step towards structural reparations to the countries most affected by the climate crisis and have contributed the least to it. Debt is the primary form of neo-colonialism today, forcing poor countries to keep expanding their fossil fuel industry, thus further fuelling the climate crisis. These debts are often illegitimate, taken out against the interests of local populations.

Make Polluters Pay

The richest 1% are responsible for more than twice the overall emissions of the poorest half of humanity. More importantly, the investments of the 1% are fuelling continued exploitation and ecological crisis. Through summits like the WEF, they hold the political power necessary to block serious responses to climate breakdown that could impact their profits. The Global South suffers more than 90% of the costs and 98% of the deaths associated with the climate crisis in the form of fires, floods, droughts, famine, disease and displacement. Because of this extreme asymmetry in responsibility, Debt for Climate demands the implementation of climate reparations based on the polluter-pays principle to finance the Loss and Damage Fund for most affected peoples and regions.

"We must end the triple injustice: combatting environmental breakdown cannot be paid for by those who have done least to contribute to it, who have the least resources to pay for it, and whose populations would suffer the most from diverting finances towards it. For this reason, the complete and unconditional cancellation of the debts of the economically impoverished countries of the Global South is unavoidable. These debts have been incurred mainly through the vandalism of the environment and the exploitation of people. Added to this is the promotion of corruption and despots in these countries by such creditors as Switzerland, which is known worldwide as a secret bunker for stolen state money, especially from Africa." – Peter Emorinken-Donatus, activist from Nigeria.


(i) The unconditional cancellation of all foreign debts of countries in the Global South to finance a just transition.

(ii) Those who pollute the most pay for the losses and damages they cause in the Global South.

Press conference:

In Altenrhein immediately following the removal of all activists from the airport.

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