UK government leaks plans to drop £11.6 billion climate pledge

The UK government is planning to drop the UK’s £11.6 billion climate and nature funding pledge for developing countries.

A leaked briefing note to ministers, given to the Foreign Office and seen by the Guardian, lays out reasons for dropping the UK’s contribution to meeting the global £78.6 billion ($100 billion) a year commitment to developing countries.

It says: “Our commitment to double our international climate finance to £11.6 billion was made in 2019, when we were still at 0.7 [% of GDP spent on international aid] and pre-Covid.”

In 2019, former prime minister Boris Johnson pledged to double the UK’s international climate finance contributions as part of the Climate Finance Delivery Plan, agreed at COP26, which aims to see £100 billion spent each year helping developing countries at risk of the impact of climate change.

Johnson had promised the UK would raise at least £11.6 billion by 2026. In the five years leading up to 2021, the UK donated £5.8 billion to the cause.

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The document also reveals the government has consistently underspent. Meeting its deadline of 2026 will be a “huge challenge” because of new pressures, including help for Ukraine being included in the aid budget.

Officials have calculated that the government would have to spend 83% of the Foreign Office’s official development assistance budget on the international climate fund to meet its original goal.

Civil servants said in the leaked document that this “would squeeze out room for other commitments such as humanitarian and women and girls”.

According to the document, implementing debt relief measures could pose challenges for the government in achieving its target as it has reduced international aid spending to 0.5% of gross national income since the announcement, leading to constrained budgets across various sectors.

Additionally, ministers have not used a significant portion of the allocated funds for the climate fund in recent years, resulting in most of the funds needing to be spent by 2026.

Head of politics at Greenpeace Rebecca Newsom said on Twitter that “Any U-turn would be morally unacceptable and strategically nonsensical for the UK.

“Ministers should come up with the funds needed by raising taxes on fossil fuel companies – five of whom made nearly £157 billion ($200 billion) profit in 2022 alone.”

A government spokesperson said: “We spent over £1.4 billion on international climate finance over the course of the 2021/22 financial year, supporting developing countries to reduce poverty and respond to the causes and impacts of climate change. We will publish the latest annual figures in due course.”

It later added: “Claims that the international climate finance pledge is being dropped are false. As the prime minister set out at Cop27, the government remains committed to spending £11.6 billion on international climate finance and we are delivering on that pledge.”

Elsewhere, prime minister Rishi Sunak is also facing criticism on his planned U-turn on onshore windfarms in England before next year’s general election.

The Observer reported the government’s consultation on ending the ban on new onshore wind projects will likely result in only a slight relaxation of planning rules as ministers want to avoid upsetting Tory voters who are against having large wind turbines near their homes.

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