Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet and tackling it is the number one thematic foreign policy priority of HM Government (HMG), in line with UN Sustainable Development Goal 13.
UK International Climate Finance (ICF) supports developing countries to reduce poverty and respond to the challenges caused by climate change and environmental degradation. Investments help developing countries to adapt and build resilience to the current and future effects of climate change; pursue low-carbon development; support sustainable management of natural resources; increase access to clean energy; and reduce deforestation.
Already, it is evident the UK's ICF is successfully supporting developing countries to counter these climate-related challenges. Indeed, I welcome HMG’s ICF Strategy, published in March 2023, that presents the headline achievements of ICF since 2011. The Report confirms that UK ICF has supported 95 million people in adapting to the effects of climate change, improved the access of clean energy for 58 million people, and saved 410,000 hectares of land from deforestation.
Indeed, the Glasgow Climate Pact calls on countries to accelerate efforts towards the phase down of unabated coal power and phase out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, while providing targeted support to the poorest and most vulnerable in line with national circumstances and recognising the need for support towards a just transition.
Under the UK’s COP Presidency, almost all developed country climate finance providers made new, forward-looking climate finance commitments, with many doubling or even quadrupling support for developing countries to take climate action. One year on, the Climate Finance Delivery Plan Progress Report has reaffirmed that the climate finance goal will be met by developed countries by 2023 latest, with over $500 billion mobilised over the five-year period 2021 to 2025.
In support of this, HMG committed to, and is delivering on, doubling its ICF spend to £11.6 billion between April 2021 and March 2026, compared with the previous five-year commitment of £5.8 billion between April 2016 and March 2021. So far, the UK has spent over £1.4 billion ICF in the financial year 2021/22 and figures for the financial year 2022/23 will be published in 2022/23. However, recognising the existential threat climate change is already posing around the world, the Prime Minister has used COP27 to announce that this Government will commit to triple funding for climate adaptation as part of that budget, from £500m in 2019 to £1.5bn in 2025.
The Foreign Secretary also attended COP27, and used the summit to call for tangible action to deliver on the commitments made at COP26. Leading the way, he announced a range of significant UK investments worth more than £100 million, including £20.7 million in Disaster Risk Financing. This is part of the commitment made in 2021 at the UK G7 in Cornwall, to spend £120 million on Disaster Risk Financing. Another significant outcome of COP27 was the establishment of the Transitional Committee under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to develop recommendations on new funding arrangements for responding to loss and damage. The UK continues to play a leading role by encouraging all members of the Committee and other parties to the UNFCCC to consider how new and additional resources can be delivered to support vulnerable countries in the future.
In addition, the UK confirmed new financial support for Egypt’s flagship COP27 initiative, the ‘Nexus on Food, Water and Energy’. This funding will help to develop projects, including solar parks and energy storage innovations, and is expected to mobilise billions in private sector finance.
While there is more global work to be done in the coming years, I am confident that the world will look back at the progress achieved at COP26 and thereafter as the beginning of the end of climate change.
ICF is drawn from the UK’s official development assistance budget. It is spent by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, and the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. Each year, the FCDO reports on the results of the UK's ICF investment portfolio.
I support HMG in pushing for action on debt sustainability as constrained fiscal space and debt vulnerabilities can frustrate efforts to invest in climate action. The UK fully supported the extension of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative to the end of 2021 and is committed to the success of the G20’s Common Framework. Under the Common Framework, private sector creditors will be required to implement debt restructurings on at least as favourable terms as official creditors.
The UK's flagship Blue Belt Programme supports the UK Overseas Territories with the protection and sustainable management of their marine environments. It has been central to HMG’s ambition of leading action to tackle the serious global problems of overfishing, species extinction and climate change. From the vast penguin colonies of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands to the marine turtles of Ascension Island, the UK Overseas Territories are home to globally significant biodiversity. It is a notable achievement that since 2016, and with support from the Blue Belt Programme, the UK Overseas Territories have enhanced marine protection across over four million square kilometres of marine environment.
To support the forest agenda, the UK committed £90m on 7 November 2022 for conservation in the Congo Basin, a vital tropical rainforest which is home to some 10,000 species of tropical plants and several endangered species. In addition, at COP27, the Prime Minister confirmed £65 million in funding for the Nature, People and Climate Investment Fund, which supports indigenous and local forest communities, and new financing for Treevive, which is working to conserve and restore two million hectares of tropical forest.
While I note the concern, I must respectfully disagree. On principle, I do not believe developing countries should be unfairly burdened with the carbon debt of richer nations, nor that those countries should be expected to forgo that same path to growth. Not only is it morally right, it is economically right too: long-term prosperity is dependent upon taking action on climate change and ramping up investment across the world. ICF also acts as a source of new jobs and growth, such as the major $3 billion Grand High Falls Dam hydropower project in Kenya, which is being led by UK firm GBM Engineering.
I assure you the Government is delivering on its commitment to spend £11.6 billion ICF. In the financial year 2021/22, the UK spent over £1.4 billion ICF and figures for 2022/23 will be published in due course.