‘Climate change cuts across everything’ - International Development Committee urges aid strategy that centres climate finance

14 May 2019

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Last week the Commons International Development Committee (IDC) published its report into UK aid for combating climate change. The report detailed that between 2011 and 2017 £4.9 billion was spent by various UK agencies on supporting projects to tackle climate change in developing countries. However, over the period 2010 to 2016 UK Export Finance (UKEF) spent almost the same amount, £4.8 billion, on schemes that contributed to carbon emissions, including financing offshore oil and gas extraction in Ghana, Colombia and Brazil.

Sam Bickersteth, Executive Director of Rockefeller Foundation Economic Council on Planetary Health at the Oxford Martin School, acted as a specialist advisor to the committee for this report. On its release he said, “The IDC report rightly calls for a more strategic approach to spending climate finance that is outcome oriented, consistently poverty focussed, time-sensitive and based on the latest climate science."

2018 Bickersteth Sam

“It is shocking that the UK is exporting its fossil fuel capabilities rather than its innovations in renewable energy approaches. Figures show that, for low- and middle-income countries, in 2017/18, fossil fuels made up over 99% of UK Export Finance’s energy support. The impact of UK aid, its International Climate Fund and the UK’s attempts at climate diplomacy will continue to be undermined by these fossil fuel investments from UK Export Finance.”

– Sam Bickersteth, Executive Director of Rockefeller Foundation Economic Council on Planetary Health

The IDC report also highlighted the impacts of climate change across of a range of areas including its disproportionate impact on women and its damaging health implications, with an 250,000 additional annual deaths from climate change estimated between 2030 and 2050. A report from Rockefeller Foundation Economic Council on Planetary Health published in April this year indicates that most of these deaths will occur in emerging economies in Asia and Africa.

The report’s conclusions clearly reflected the interconnections between climate change and impacts on human health and well-being stating, “Climate change is not just one of a number of issues that the UK should address through aid spending. Climate change cuts across everything.” It went on to give a stark warning on the urgency of climate action across government policy – “The challenge is huge, it is existential, and there is very little time. The severity of the situation simply cannot be overstated.”

Secretary of State for International Development (DFID), Rory Stewart said that the report made for “sobering reading” and concluded, “Although we have done much already to tackle climate change, I feel strongly we can do more. I am going to make tackling climate change increasingly central to DFID’s work.”

The outcome of the report was a recommendation by the committee that climate change must be placed at the centre of aid strategy and funding if it is to address the seriousness of threats facing developing countries. The IDC urged a minimum spend of £1.76bn annually and a halt to funding fossil fuel projects in developing countries, unless they can demonstrate they support the transition to zero emissions by 2050.