UK risks commitment as government cuts corners

  • Post last modified:March 1, 2024
  • Reading time:3 mins read

On Thursday 29 February the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) released its review on UK aid’s International Climate Finance Commitments. It has found that the UK’s commitment to spend £11.6bn on climate finance is at risk as UK aid resources are stretched.

UK climate finance: aid already stretched

The review finds that the commitment to spend £11.6bn to help climate-vulnerable countries adapt and respond to climate change between April 2021 – March 2026 will be challenging to meet, with 55% to be spent in the last two years of the pledge.

Other key findings of the review include:

  • The government “moved the goalposts” by changing the way meeting the target is calculated, and reviewing existing spend to include all eligible International Climate Finance. Altogether this amounted to an additional £1.724bn, of which none was additional to recipient countries.
  • The changes also meant that more of UK aid funding was translated into loans rather than grants via multilateral development banks, a modality less appropriate for the poorest and most climate-vulnerable countries.
  • There are also concerns about the transparency of the changes made to meet the target and the impact of these changes on the most climate-vulnerable countries.
  • The UK’s International Climate Finance has not consistently championed women and girls through its spending, despite commitments in the International Women and Girls Strategy.

Government ‘cutting corners’

In October 2023 a ministerial statement outlined significant changes to what counts as climate finance, as well as demonstrating that very little progress has been made towards fulfilling the commitment so far.

The changes saw the UK’s existing climate crisis-related core contributions to multilateral development banks, and a fixed proportion of 30% of humanitarian programmes operating in the 10% of countries most vulnerable to climate change newly classified as part of the UK’s International Climate Finance, meaning no additional financing for those hardest hit by the climate crisis.

In reaction to the review, Gideon Rabinowitz, director of policy and advocacy at Bond, the UK network for NGOs, said:

This review confirms the government is cutting corners when it comes to meeting its international climate finance commitments.

Reclassifying existing UK aid as climate finance, rather than providing new and additional funding, will do nothing for those directly impacted by the climate crisis. By watering down its promises and intentionally moving the goalposts, the UK is sending the wrong message to climate-vulnerable countries and damaging its reputation as a reliable partner on climate action.

Featured image via crshelare – Envato Elements

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