UK’s £11.6bn climate aid commitment at risk, watchdog warns

Thursday, Feb 29, 2024

LONDON: The UK will struggle to meet its commitment to spend £11.6 billion helping poorer countries deal with climate change, the aid spending watchdog has warned.

In 2019, the Government pledged £11.6 billion over five years to 2025-26 to help developing countries curb emissions and cope with climate impacts, including £3 billion on restoring nature, half of which is for forests.

But it has “moved the goalposts” by changing how it calculates the target and reviewing existing aid programmes to include as international climate finance, the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) said.

This has produced an extra £1.724 billion towards enabling the Government to meet the target, none of which was new money for countries in need of help.The watchdog raised concerns that the changes mean the UK is offering less additional assistance than was originally promised.

A rapid review from the watchdog, which reports to Parliament, also warns that even with the changes, the target will be “challenging” to meet, with 55 per cent of the funding still to be spent in the last two years of the pledge. Up to £3.8 billion is due to be spent in the last year of the pledge, after the next general election and at least one spending review. That comes in the context of a squeeze on the overall aid budget and non-climate demands on the money. “In the context of successive budget reductions to overseas development aid (ODA), serious concerns remain over whether the heavily backloaded spending plan can be delivered,” the report warns.

Trust in the UK’s international climate leadership has declined as a result of uncertainty about the UK meeting its £11.6 billion commitment, especially with the changes to how it is measured, as well as rolling back on net zero policies at home, the report said.

The review highlights competing demands on UK aid, due to escalating humanitarian crises and conflicts and cuts to the aid budget which has a ceiling of 0.5 per cent of gross national income rather than the 0.7 per cent it once was.And current policies are leading to a significant proportion of aid being spent in the UK, through spending on asylum seekers and refugees here.