Boris Johnson’s pledge of more than £ 11 billion to help poorer countries adapt to the climate emergency will be funded by even bigger cuts to the Kingdom’s other overseas aid projects -United, The independent has learned.
The lack of new funding leaves the prime minister’s claim to be the world’s environmental leader in tatters before hosting the COP26 summit in the fall, activists say.
It also breaks an agreement brokered by the United Nations which the money must be “new and additional”, they say, one likening him to “a bailiff leaving a bouquet of flowers”.
The government has come under fire from all quarters for its existing aid cuts of £ 4 billion a year, with a project in Malawi to help farmers adapt to climate change among the last to fall victim to it. At least three similar programs are expected to follow.
The World Health Organization has previously warned that “hundreds of thousands” will die from the cuts, amid fury that MPs have been denied the vote despite being promised.
In Cornwall last month, the Prime Minister hailed his £ 11.6 billion climate pledge to the developing world – spread over 5 years – and pledged to harass other countries to accumulate money before Cop26 in Glasgow.
“We, as the rich nations of the Earth, we must strengthen our credibility with these countries by asking them to reduce their CO2 emissions,” he said – in connection with contributions to an annual fund of the ‘UN hoped for 100 billion dollars.
“Because this country, which started the industrial revolution, is responsible for a huge carbon budget that is already in the atmosphere.”
But the government has now quietly conceded that the entire £ 11.6bn – worth around £ 2.3bn each year, between 2021 and 2026 – will come from official development assistance ( APD), the aid budget.
Johnson is already under fire for breaking his promise to give MPs a vote on the decision to cut aid spending from 0.7 to 0.5% of domestic production, wiping out £ 4bn sterling per year.
Catherine Pettengell, UK director of the Climate Action Network, said the promise of “new and additional” resources for the flagship United Nations Climate Adaptation Fund was being broken.
“Cutting the aid budget, while using it as the sole source of climate finance, will inevitably hurt the most vulnerable in society,” she said.
Tracy Carty, Oxfam Senior Climate Advisor, said: “We welcome the UK’s commitment to climate finance, but when it comes from a shrinking aid budget, it is like your usher leaving a bouquet of flowers.
And Preet Gill, the shadowy international development secretary, condemned “empty greenwashing” which would hit “the world’s most vulnerable people and weaken their ability to act against the climate crisis.”
The revelation that no new money will be made available comes after independent government climate advisers warned that aid cuts are already “undermining” the commitment to climate finance.
The Prosper (Promoting Sustainable Partnerships for Empowered Resilience) project in Malawi works with farmers to “reduce the impact of climate shocks” through new farming practices, better irrigation and early warning systems.
But the £ 25million program, funded by the government’s Climate Change Resilience and Adaptation Program (BRACC), has now been phased out, despite being rated A ** – forcing layoffs of staff and the closure of four district offices.
“The reduction has dealt a severe blow to our efforts to build the resilience of extremely poor communities in Malawi to adapt and cope with climate shocks such as droughts,” said Danny Harvey, the agency’s executive director. help Concern Worldwide.
The richest countries in the world for the first time pledged to spend $ 100 billion a year in a climate adaptation fund to help poor countries adapt to global warming in 2009 – but only $ 79 billion. dollars were raised.
The UK is seen as “somewhere in the middle” of the G7, behind France, Germany, Japan and Canada, but ahead of the US and Italy.
The fund recognizes the “guilt” of industrialized countries – for centuries of carbon emissions – and aims to help developing countries protect themselves from the devastating effects of global warming, while reducing their own emissions.
In Cancun in 2010, the Cop16 summit, rich countries pledged that the funding would be “new and additional”, noting the “urgent and immediate needs of developing countries which are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change”.
But the government has now revealed that the entire £ 11.6bn counts as ODA, meaning no further funding will be advanced.
In addition, only £ 1.4bn will be allocated to climate finance in 2021-2022, raising fears that most spending will be postponed until the end of the five-year period.
But, in Cornwall, Mr Johnson suggested the UK had gone as far as it wanted, saying: ‘We are now asking other countries to make a change.
“We’re going to be on everyone’s case by the summer, and through the fall, to get those commitments and make sure we put the world in the right place for Cop.”
The Foreign Office defended the arrangement on the grounds that “international climate finance commitments are new and in addition to all previous commitments” to the UN fund.
“While the seismic impact of the pandemic on the UK economy has forced us to make difficult but necessary decisions, the UK aid budget this year will still be over £ 10 billion, making we are one of the biggest donors to the G7, ”a spokesperson said. mentionned.