Climate report finds “broad exemptions” in UK fossil fuel policy

UK fossil fuel policy, FCDO climate
© Gordzam

The International Development Committee published criticism of existing UK climate strategy today (26 October) – pointing out “broad exemptions” in UK fossil fuel policy

The report, ‘Global Britain in demand: UK climate action and international development around COP26’, discusses the global role of the UK in the fight against climate change.

It is well-known that the poorest communities in the world bear disproportionate climate consequences.

For example, Bangladesh is an arid, fertile land. It is immediately subject to rising waters as the Earth warms. But changing weather means rural communities lose the ability to sustain themselves with agricultural labour. In the hunt for work, thousands arrive in capital city Dhaka – where they are often swept by necessity into difficult, exploitative garment industry work. This situation, playing out everyday, leads to displacement and costly migration.

Ahead of COP26, the International Development Committee continue their line of questioning about a global UK climate strategy. The Committee, a non-partisan mixed bag of MPs, has ideas and deadlines on suggested ideas for the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and the UK Government as a whole.

What does the climate report say the UK should do?

1. Create a Climate and Development Minister at FCDO

The report asks for a new position to be created at the FCDO, to “maximise the synergies between departments dealing with development, climate, energy and the environment”.

The Committee suggests that climate change and development are deeply linked, which means that failure to link them will create “scope for maladaptation” – especially when it comes to creating policy coherence in Whitehall.

According to Dr Lisa Schipper, Environmental Social Science Research Fellow at the
Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford: “Maladaptation signifies any changes in natural or human systems that inadvertently increase vulnerability to climatic stimuli; an adaptation that does not succeed in reducing vulnerability but increases it instead”.

2. Clearly define international climate finance

The MPs also want climate finance to be more accessible to different countries that need it. They ask for a simplification of the system, with increased efficiency to decrease the waiting period. This condition is given a deadline of 31 January, 2022.

The UK currently agrees to channel 70% of climate finance directly to impacted communities, but the report points to a lack of transparency – meaning that there is no certainty about where funds are going, and how quickly.

They also ask for the UK’s climate finance strategy to be published.

3. Tackle root causes of vulnerability for poor, marginalised communities

The report also asks the FCDO to look at “root causes” of vulnerability in Global South communities – while involving local communities in decision-making about nature.

The deadline for this change is also 31 January, 2022.

The report says that communities who are impacted by climate might be seen as “more just another tick box in project design” as opposed to a crucial part of the solution.

4.  Invest in climate-vulnerable countries to build resilience

This recommendation proposes that local expertise is built and investment programmes run for longer cycles. From the Committee report in 2019, some issues were identified.

For instance, programmes ran for two to three years as opposed to seven to ten years – the second, longer cycle preferred by NGOs working with local communities. These short-term programmes were finished even if successful, with no further investment. And consultants, often too expensive and too fleeting, were too relied upon for these projects.

Cecília da Silva Bernardo, Representative of the Least Developed Countries Group and Co-Chair of the Adaptation Committee of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said: “Capacity is not being built at a national level […] When the consultants are gone, their knowledge goes with them.”

5. Stop all exemptions to UK fossil fuel policy abroad

In March, 2021, the UK declared a ban on new, direct financial or general support for the fossil fuel energy sector.

Currently, the Government allows for some “broad exemptions” to the fossil fuel policy. The only one that the report supports, is the use of fuel for cooking in the poorest communities across the Global South.

What are the rest of the exemptions?
  • The country has a plan for net zero by 2050;
  • UK support does not stop the transition to renewable energy
  • The project “intends to follow best practice in environmental and social standards”;
  • And if the fossil fuel is a source of “domestic energy security” with no viable renewable energy alternatives.

The report suggests that the above exemptions, minus cooking fuel, are closed by 31 October 2022. It also suggests that renewable energy investment is done by the same deadline.


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