Ministers must put 'existential threat' of climate change at heart of UK aid spending, MPs say

Posted On: 
8th May 2019

Ministers must use UK aid spending to tackle the "existential threat" of climate change, a group of influential MPs has said.

UK aid label attached to supplies MPs called for spending on climate change to become the "strategic priority" for the Department

The latest report from the International Development Committee warned benefits from wider aid spending would be "nullified" by the effects of global warming unless the UK took urgent action to tackle the problem.

The Department for International Development is currently committed to spend £3.6bn on climate change by 2020/21, but MPs urged ministers to ringfence an annual £1.76bn fund dedicated to climate-related schemes.

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The report comes days after MPs approved a motion declaring a climate emergency after environment activist group Extinction Rebellion staged a series of protests across the country.

MPs on the committee also called for funding for fossil fuel projects to be halted unless there was a committment to support efforts to hit zero emissions targets by 2050.

During the inquiry, charity Oxfam warned that million of lives would be at risk if the international community failed to act, while WWF said inaction would put the prospect of ending poverty "far out of reach".

Committee chair Stephen Twigg 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 nationas that will face the most serious consequences of climate change yet have done little to cause it."


Last week, newly appointed International Development Secretary Rory Stewart said the world was "absolutely" facing a climate emergency as he batted away suggestions from Tory colleagues to slash aid spending.

He told ITV's Robert Peston: "There is no doubt about it. People can get into arguments about the language, but it's a cataclysm that the ice sheet is going at 10 times the predicted rate and we'll lose 30 or 40% of species on earth by 2050... the work that  [the department] does internationally is right at the heart of it.

"I would argue that spending, not 7%, not 1%, but 0.7% of your GDP on that kind of issue really makes a difference, not just to the planet but to you and me."

But MPs said "incoherent policy" decisions had led to £4.8bn being doled out to finance fossil fuel projects through UK Export Finance between 2010 and 2016, while another £4.9bn was given to the International Climate Change fund from 2011 to 2017.

"Climate finance has to be more than meeting a commitment and ticking a box," the report added. "The UK needs to make sure that all climate finance is being spend in the most effective possible way.

"Climate finance must be spent strategically, it needs to be spent with urgency, and it has to be transformative."

Mr Twigg added: "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."

International Development Secretary Rory Stewart, said: "We are facing a climate cataclysm. One million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction. We need to take radical steps or we – and our planet – will face an irreversible catastrophe.

"The ice shelf is shrinking, oceans are rising and global carbon emissions are increasing. This is before we even count the cost on humans.

"This report by the International Development Committee published today makes for sobering reading. We need new ways of working and a new direction. We need wholesale change."                 

He added: "I want to see more of the UK aid budget spent on climate and the environment, particularly on research and development. As climate extremes worsen, it is the world’s poorest countries and communities which will be most affected, but this is a global issue.

"Tackling climate change is not only the right thing to do. It is a very smart thing to do.

"We all breathe the same air as people in China and India and tackling issues like climate change matters to us all. The UK cannot solve such problems alone."