Major change in UK Government aid strategy needed to meet the scale of the Global Climate Emergency
The UK must place climate change at the centre of aid strategy and funding if it is to have a meaningful impact on the range and seriousness of threats facing developing nations as a result of climate change, a report by the International Development Committee has found.
The Committee calls on the UK Government to set an example and provide international leadership to realign the focus of aid policy, strategy and funding, to place climate change at the centre. The negative consequences of a failure to act will be so serious as to nullify the effectiveness of wider aid spending.
The UK’s commitment of spending £1.76 billion on climate finance, dedicated aid spending for climate change related activities, should become the annual minimum. UK aid for fossil fuel projects should end, unless it demonstrably supports transition towards zero global emissions by 2050.
The Chair of the Committee, Stephen Twigg MP said:
“It is welcome that in recent weeks climate change has taken its rightful place at the top of the news agenda. The scale and seriousness of the challenge to be confronted must be reinforced and reflected upon daily if we are to take meaningful steps to combat it. The Committee on Climate Change report has set out the measures that need to be taken domestically, but we must also look globally.
“We cannot simply reflect on what we do at home and think that will be enough. We must look at how we can provide the best support to those nations that will face the most serious consequences of climate change yet have done little to cause it.
“The UK should be in the vanguard of efforts to help prepare the world’s poorest for the extreme consequences of climate change, and it must go hand-in-hand with current programmes to alleviate poverty. We need radical action that places climate change front and centre of all aid spending and policy decisions, and dedicated financing to give it teeth.
“The crisis facing us is extreme and we need action from the Government now.”
Recognising the challenge facing developing nations
Climate change is not just one of a number of issues that the UK should address through aid spending, it is the single biggest threat to stability and wellbeing in some of the world’s most vulnerable nations. The effectiveness of all UK aid spending is dependent on whether the international aid community rapidly and effectively combats the causes and impacts of climate change.
During the inquiry, the International Development Committee heard grave warnings of the consequences of inaction:
- Climate change is already impacting people around the world, exacerbating poverty and undermining development efforts… If we fail to act on climate change, any prospect of ending poverty will be far out of reach.
- If the international community fails to take adequate action to support the 3.5 billion poorest people around the world who face increased risk of floods, droughts, hunger and disease, millions of lives and livelihoods will be lost.
- If the international community fails to take action, there is a real risk that progress in international development over the past decades will begin to regress, particularly in terms of livelihoods and poverty, human security and human health.
Climate finance, the money dedicated to combatting the causes and effects of climate change in developing nations, must be more than a box ticking exercise. It should be viewed as the cutting edge of a comprehensive strategy that is outcome-oriented, time-sensitive and based on the latest climate science.
The UK has committed £1.76 billion on climate finance in 2020/21 and this should become the annual minimum spend and ringfenced in the upcoming spending review as International Climate Finance. It should be used to finance programmes and strategies that take a long-term approach, addressing mitigation and adaptation, with poverty reduction as the key goal.
Joined up approach
There should be consistency across Government to ensure that all aid spending is taking the same approach to climate change. All aid should target reaching net zero emissions, support climate resilience and place climate change as a key consideration in all spending decisions.
The consequences of incoherent policy can be demonstrated by looking at UK Export Finance, which between 2010 and 2016 provided support worth £4.8 billion to fossil fuel projects compared to a total spend of £4.9 billion on the International Climate Fund between 2011-17. Supporting the fossil fuel economy in developing countries damages the effectiveness of the UK’s approach to combatting climate change and this should be rectified urgently.
Supporting zero emissions target
The UK should support efforts to pursue net zero emissions by 2050. It is not acceptable for UK aid to be spent on fossil fuels, unless it supports a transition towards zero emissions with clear planning for how it will do so and a set timescale by which it will be achieved.