Foreign aid fury as PM fails to open coffers to help ‘vulnerable’ fight crisis: ‘It’s sad’

COP26: John Kerry dodges questions about US' blunders

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Climate change is a global issue in every meaning of the term, and no country alone will be able to mitigate the dangers posed by global warming. But some countries, like the UK and US, are better prepared to face the fallout of a warming planet, than many of the nations that exist today without bustling, post-industrial economies. To help mitigate the disparity between the world’s richest and the so-called Global South, the United Nations agreed in 2009 that developed nations would “mobilise” to provide nearly £74billion ($100billion) a year by 2020 in “climate finance” for the world’s poorest nations.

But this promise has not been met and the developed world has fallen short of this target.

Appearing at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow this week, many leaders of the developing world have called on their wealthier counterparts to honour their commitment to the international community.

Speaking on Tuesday, Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the president of Ghana, said Africans were “naturally disappointed” by the state of affairs.

Surangel Whipps Jr, President of the Pacific island state of Palau, was equally displeased and told the gathered delegates: “Frankly speaking, there is no dignity to a slow and painful death.

“You might as well bomb our islands instead of making us suffer, only to witness our slow and fateful demise.

“Leaders of the G20, we are drowning, and our only hope is the life ring you are holding.”

It is estimated the world’s richest countries are responsible for about 80 percent of all planet-warming greenhouse emissions.

And yet, it is nations across Africa and the Caribbean and Asia that are going to suffer the worst consequences of climate change.

Mr O’Callaghan, project manager of the Oxford University Economic Recovery Project, has told “it is sad” to see wealthy nations shirk their responsibility to provide foreign aid to those most in need.

He said: “The UK Government has cut foreign aid significantly in the last 12 months and in the context of climate, I think that’s sad because of the human impact.

“It’s sad because of the economic impact on vulnerable countries, but it’s also sad because of the climate.

“The cheapest options we have for dealing with emissions are actually in vulnerable nations.

“It’s cheaper to abate a single ton of carbon in a vulnerable country than in a rich country.”

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Earlier this summer, despite protests from the opposition bench, the Government slashed the UK’s foreign aid budget from 0.7 percent of national income down to 0.5 percent – the difference amounting to about £4billion.

The Government said the cut would be temporary and would be reversed in the future if certain conditions were met.

The commitment to spend 0.7 percent of national income was supported by the United Nations in the Seventies and officially made its way into UK law in 2015.

Justifying its decision for the cut, the Government said the 2015 law hinged on “fiscal circumstances” and the economic damage caused by the Covid pandemic justified the “difficult decision” to cut aid.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak stressed in July that the decision “is categorically not a rejection of our global responsibilities”.

And yet, the developed world as a whole has failed to meet its climate aid, with 2019 figures suggesting only £60billion ($80billion) was pooled together for vulnerable nations.

Although the figures for 2020 have not yet arrived, the COP26 President has said the target will likely not be met until 2023.

Alok Sharma, who is leading the climate summit on behalf of the UK this year, said last month: “Understandably, this has been a source of deep frustration for developing countries.

“The aim of putting this plan together has been to rebuild trust… countries will need to deliver on this.”

Foreign aid to the tune of £74billion ($100billion) a year is a drop in the ocean of the developed world’s overall spending, according to Mr O’Callaghan.

The OUERP has recently published a report that found the developed world has spent a staggering £10.65trillion ($14.4trillion) to recover from the chaos of the Covid pandemic.

Even more worryingly, the report claims 79 percent of the Covid recovery spending supported the “unsustainable economic status quo”.

Only about 21 percent of the recovery spending – and just three percent of the total Covid-related spending – was classified as green.

Mr O’Callaghan said: “Reduction in foreign aid is a loss for the climate, a loss in human lives.

“It’s quite a sad situation for us to be in.”

In September this year, the Government said the UK has already committed £11.6billion in international climate finance over the next five years – twice the previous five-year commitment.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also confirmed £550million of that was being put towards supporting developing nations in adopting and meeting net zero emissions targets by investing in green technologies and phasing out fossil fuels.

He said: “Richer nations have reaped the benefits of untrammelled pollution for generations, often at the expense of developing countries.

“As those countries now try to grow their economies in a clean, green and sustainable way we have a duty to support them in doing so – with our technology, with our expertise and with the money we have promised.”

Some £350million in funding was also announced on September 20 to be directed towards the multilateral Climate Investment Funds, which includes support for the Accelerating Coal Transition programme. has asked the President of the COP26 summit to comment.

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