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Financing for Sustainable Development: Decarbonization and its Constraints in Africa and Latin America

Past Event

December 16, 2021

12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

Historically, Africa’s and Latin America’s economic role in the international system has been that of exporters of commodities to markets in Europe and North America–in the process providing vital resources to sustain the global carbon economy and carbon-intensive modes of production and consumption. In the last two decades, the growth in China’s global economic and environmental footprint has, in many ways, consolidated these patterns but has also coincided with soaring debt to GDP ratios in African and Latin American states. This trend towards increased indebtedness preceded the Covid-19 pandemic and has been deepened by it as sovereigns have scrambled to increase public spending. Rising external commitments are not only reminiscent of previous episodes of financial instability leading to political turmoil and “lost decades” for tens of millions of impoverished citizens. They also threaten to undercut today’s efforts in Africa and Latin America to make progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and prepare for energy transitions at home as well as in Europe, North America and Asia.

The Center on Global Energy Policy hosted a panel to investigate the challenge of financing decarbonization and the SDGs more broadly in the shadow of the pandemic and growing fiscal constraints, with special attention to Beijing’s role as a creditor and development partner for low-income and middle-income countries.

This event was the first in a series of dialogues, convened by the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia-SIPA and the Oxford University China-Africa Network (OUCAN), that focuses on China’s role in the political economies of African and Latin American states. The dialogues bring together scholars, policymakers and civil society voices from across the world to reflect on how growing indebtedness, (potential) energy transitions and industrial policy are linked and what role China plays in impacting these connections.


  • Dr. Harry Verhoeven, Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University SIPA and Convenor of OUCAN


  • Obiageli Ezekwesili, Yale University and former Vice President of the World Bank for Africa
  • Nicolas Lippolis, University of Oxford and Co-Convenor of OUCAN
  • Chema Vera, UNICEF and former Executive Director of Oxfam International