Charities have warned that cuts to the UK's overseas aid budget undermine the country's leadership on climate action, as the government hosts an international summit on Wednesday, March 31, on the topic of climate change and international development.
The Climate and Development Ministerial is a virtual conference being held ahead of the main UN Climate Summit, also known as COP26, which will be held in Glasgow this November.
The event, hosted by the UK and co-chaired by COP President Alok Sharma and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, will be attended by leaders from all over the world. The focus of the meeting is how developing countries already being hit by the impact of climate change can be supported to adapt.
Countries already facing extreme weather events such as flooding, drought, and extreme temperatures, need financial support to become more resilient to climate change, make adaptations, and find homes for people displaced by rising sea levels — and wealthier nations will need to support developing countries to do that.
Repeated flooding in Bangladesh for example, has already displaced tens of thousands people from their homes. And the Climate Action Network predicts that 63 million people in South Asian countries will be displaced as a result of climate change by 2050.
However, almost 20 NGOs working in the area of climate and international development have signed a letter urging the UK government to reinstate its commitment to spending 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) on overseas development assistance, arguing that the cuts will make it harder for countries to respond to climate change.
The charities, including Greenpeace, Christian Aid, and WaterAid, say that the aid cuts, “will inevitably harm the most vulnerable in society, pushing huge numbers back into poverty.”
They add that making the aid cuts — amounting to at least £4.5 billion from last year’s aid budget — will also “undermine the UK's credibility as hosts of the Climate and Development Ministerial, G7, and COP26.”
Instead, to win back support and to encourage leaders from other developed nations to finance much-needed climate adaptations in poorer countries, the UK needs to honour the its legally binding commitment to spending 0.7% of GNI on aid, as a “prerequisite for solidarity with those most vulnerable.”
The government should also “appoint a loss and damage champion” who will recognise the “suffering being caused by climate change impacts right now,” the group suggests.
And thirdly, the NGOs call on the government to support the UN Secretary General’s call for all countries and multilateral development banks to allocate “at least half of their climate finance to adaptation” by the time the COP26 summit takes place in November.
The letter was coordinated by Bond, a UK network representing international development charities. Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, chief executive of Christian Aid, said in a statement: “In the year of COP26, as host and a significant emitter, all eyes are on the UK to lead the world in stepping up ambition on climate action.”
"Vulnerable communities on the front line of a climate emergency they did not cause need financial support,” she continued. “If the UK is to deliver a successful climate summit, then this week’s meeting must restore the much needed aid, ensure that debts are cancelled, and commit the finance needed to help poorer nations adapt to a changing climate.”
Greenpeace UK’s Head of Politics, Rebecca Newsom, said: “From more frequent and severe flooding, to rising sea levels, droughts, and wildfires worldwide — it’s clear the world’s poorest countries need more support in the face of the climate crisis, not less.”
The letter concludes: “Now is not the time for the UK to renege on its promises to the most vulnerable, but to redouble efforts and to lead from the front on commitments to leave no one behind.”