World Bank and IMF climate finance event torpedoed by activists calling for ethical debt cancellation

Participants of Europe's largest youth climate conference (LCOY) in Munich denounce greenwashing by IMF and World Bank after Debt for Climate protest intervention

Dozens of participants staged a walk-out of a panel discussion on reforming the international financial architecture at Europe's largest youth climate conference (LCOY) in Munich, after Debt for Climate co-founder Esteban Servat gifted a World Bank representative with a green-painted toy washing machine on stage.

The award symbolized the greenwashing of their climate-destructive policies globally. While Servat denounced the climate crimes of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), activists from Debt for Climate brought a large banner reading "Stop Greenwashing Colonialism - Cancel the Debt!" to the front of the stage and distributed informational materials to the audience about the World Bank's role in exacerbating the climate crisis.\-QtN9TG67c

After the provocative award ceremony, Servat left the stage, followed by numerous visitors to the panel discussion. Leaving an empty auditorium behind, young climate activists gathered outside on their own initiative to organize for the cancellation of debt for the Global South in order to help enable a self-determined and just energy transition.

"It's a shame that the World Bank is being given a platform to brainwash young people who want to learn about real action on humanity's greatest threat, the climate crisis, into believing that the solutions to our current problems will come from the same institutions that caused them in the first place," Servat reasons of the walk-out.

Represented on the panel, which was supposed to be about climate-friendly reform of the international financial architecture, were exclusively institutions that are directly and indirectly linked to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund: the BMZ, whose minister Svenja Schulze is the German representative at the World Bank; the Deutsche Bundesbank, for which Joachim Nagel represents Germany at the IMF; and of course the World Bank itself. And this whilst studies show that the World Bank and the IMF are directly contributing to the worsening of the climate crisis.

"The World Bank and the IMF are responsible for the continued extraction of fossil fuels, as in my home country of Argentina, where they open the doors for multinational companies to destroy our land and poison our water by extracting gas and oil, just so we can pay the interest on loans that are illegitimate in the first place." says Servat.

By means of its internal decision-making structures and exerting foreign influence on the economies and policies of other countries, especially in the Global South, the World Bank has been reproducing colonial power relations since its creation in 1944. Its debt policy aims to cement dependency relationships between lenders and countries impoverished by centuries of colonial plunder, not to pursue progressive and climate-friendly fiscal policies.

"We cannot stand by silently as they try to portray themselves as saviors, even though they are the ones perpetuating the colonial power relations between the Global North and South," says Louise Wagner from Debt for Climate.

It was all the more important for the activists to offer an alternative for young people interested in transformative and justice-oriented climate policies and to unmask the destructive policies of the World Bank.

The protest action took place just one day before the start of the Annual Meetings of the IMF and the World Bank in Morocco. Debt for Climate is calling for global protests from October 12 (Day of Indigenous Resistance) to October 15 (Memorial Day for the Assassination of Thomas Sankara). In Germany, too, actions are planned in several cities on these days.