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The Government is still stuck in a fossil fuel age when it comes to international development

We are seeing ‘build back better’ becoming yet another empty slogan, writes Anna McMorrin MP | PA Images

3 min read

The Government is still spending billions in aid on overseas fossil fuel projects, diminishing resilience and deepening climate injustices

Since declaring a ‘Climate Emergency’ a little over a year ago the UK has failed to rise to the challenge of the climate crisis. Instead, the gap between soaring rhetoric and meaningful action has only widened. Two weeks ago, the chancellor failed to use this historic opportunity to take a bold, embracing approach to rebuilding a more sustainable and resilient world. And the greatest injustice is that it’s the world’s poorest who’ll pay the largest price of our inaction. 

The climate impact is felt disproportionately. The most vulnerable across the world are the direct human casualties of environmental degradation despite contributing least to the climate crisis. Floods, severe droughts, failed harvests – causing acute starvation, extreme poverty and displacement. Imagine being forced to leave your home, unable to feed your children because fossil fuels burn nearby. Imagine being continually blighted by such severe flooding that villagers in Bangladesh are having to create floating vegetable gardens in order to salvage their livelihoods.

This is what living in a climate crisis looks like. 

Touting climate leadership in one breath and investment in high carbon projects in another is not global leadership

Our actions are contributing to the deterioration of our planet with devastating consequences for the poorest people and nations. This pandemic has only deepened those inequalities. The interconnected nature of our world means we all have a part to play in making progress on the climate crisis, which creates more refugees than war. Yet climate justice is not considered a priority at home or in our Government’s international work. 

We’ve seen a catalogue of failures from the UK Government in reversing climate breakdown. The Conservatives’ own backbenchers agree that we are “not forward thinking enough” on climate change. The hypocrisy of funnelling billions of UK aid money into fossil fuel projects across the world, despite urging world leaders to bring forth their ambitious plans to hit net zero emissions, is staggering.

Last year’s commitment by the then international development secretary Rory Stewart to double the amount of aid spent on tackling the climate emergency has been forgotten. Just last week, president of COP26 Alok Sharma MP spoke on behalf of the UK at the IEA Clean Energy Transitions Summit stating a “clean energy transition is central to tackling climate change”. He spoke of improving quality of lives in developing nations and how our “future generations deserve nothing less” than real progress. 

Actions speak louder than words. And when £3.9bn has been spent on fossil fuel infrastructure overseas since the Paris Agreement and the Government’s development finance institution, the CDC, has made a total of $207.4m of UK aid in new direct commitments to fossil fuel projects since 2017, the UK Government’s silence is deafening.

This is not the progress the minister claims our future generations deserve. This is a Government stuck in the fossil fuel age and whose investments overseas are trapping nations into carbon intensive projects for years to come – diminishing resilience and deepening climate injustices.

Touting climate leadership in one breath and investment in high carbon projects in another is not global leadership. We must be bold and willing to break the chain of reliance on fossil fuels overseas which flies in the face of any meaningful attempts to tackle the climate crisis. 

The time is now to invest in a future that is greener, sustainable, and more resilient. We have a real opportunity to create a fairer, more just society which puts the happiness of people, planet and economy first. 

Instead, all we are seeing is ‘build back better’ becoming yet another empty slogan.


Anna McMorrin is Labour MP for Cardiff North and shadow international development minister

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Read the most recent article written by Anna McMorrin MP - It’s shameful that victims feel demeaned and degraded instead of seeing justice delivered

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