The UK government is planning to abandon its £11.6 billion climate finance pledge, according to a leaked briefing note seen by The Guardian newspaper.
However, the government has responded saying that they “remain committed” to the UK’s contribution to the global £79.6 billion ($100 billion) climate finance fund, announced in 2019.
A government spokesperson told The Independent that “The government remains committed to spending £11.6 billion on international climate finance and we are delivering on that pledge.”
The briefing note read: “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.”
It said that due to pressures on the aid budget, especially as a result of the invasion of Ukraine, it would be a “huge challenge” to meet the spending target by the deadline of 2026, which could mean spending 83% of the Foreign Office development budget on the climate fund.
In 2021, the government reduced UK aid spending to 0.5% of Gross National Income, a fall of 21%.
The revelations echo complaints made by former Foreign Office minister Zac Goldsmith, who resigned last week citing government “apathy” on tackling the climate crisis.
When Goldsmith resigned last week, the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak responded in a letter to the resignation reaffirming the commitment to the £11.6 billion target.
If it’s true that the UK, under PM Rishi Sunak, is dropping its £11.6bn climate finance pledge, it will, among other things, be awkward for… Rishi Sunak, who touted that very same pledge just a few days ago, noting that he had “reconfirmed” it at COP27 last year pic.twitter.com/K2jH4yoJ7e— Simon Evans (@DrSimEvans) July 4, 2023
Goldsmith told The Guardian that the decision to treat spending on Afghan and Ukrainian refugees as aid made it “virtually impossible” to meet the target. He added that while it was technically possible to still honour the pledge, the government was effectively making it impossible for the next government to do so.
The news was criticised by opposition MPs like the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas, as well as groups like the WWF.
⚠️The UK government looks set to break its £11.6bn pledge for climate & nature.— WWF UK (@wwf_uk) July 5, 2023
ln the same week global temperature records were broken, this undermines the UK’s reputation and sends a terrible signal to people on the front line of the #ClimateCrisis.https://t.co/DS0qhWz74H
Meeting the $100 billion (£79.6 billion) climate finance target was one of the key pledges from the 2015 Paris Agreement. On 26 June, the Climate Change Committee also criticised the UK government for not delivering on its net zero targets for the UK.
In contrast, the UK has committed to raising the defence budget to 2.5% of GDP , and in 2021/22, the government spent £45.9 billion on defence.