Dirty development dumped
Boris Johnson

Dirty development dumped

Daniel Willis

By: Daniel Willis
Date: 15 December 2020
Campaigns: Climate

On Saturday, the British government finally announced that it would stop funding fossil fuel projects in the global south. This is a huge win for the frontline communities and activists who have been opposing this climate hypocrisy for years.

Earlier this year, our research showed that the UK had given nearly £4 billion to dirty fossil fuel projects overseas in the five years since the Paris Agreement was signed. This included Trade department export credits and development funds intended to alleviate poverty.

This completely undermined the Prime Minister’s claims to be showing “climate leadership” and it is a huge relief that the government has now committed to end this practice. Many thousands of us took action on this and two weeks ago we delivered 71,000 signatures with partners to Downing Street. Thank you to all of you who took action!

However, we can’t stop campaigning just yet. The government has said it will stop this funding “as soon as possible”, but it is unclear how this will affect existing plans to give millions of pounds of public money to a new crude oil pipeline in Uganda and Tanzania, as well as at least sixteen other fossil fuel projects around the world.

We also need to make sure that this money is used in the right way instead, funding low-carbon renewable technology as part of a just transition that protects workers and human rights.

But perhaps most importantly, whilst an important victory, we can’t allow this announcement to be the sum total of the government’s ambition ahead of the COP26 climate talks next year. Whilst Saturday’s Climate Ambition Summit saw a lot of warm words from global leaders, we are still a long way from tackling the climate crisis.

Net Zero is Not Zero

For example, the UK has committed to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, one of the first countries to establish such a target. However, “net zero” is fraught with problems.

Net zero disguises climate inaction by allowing corporations and governments to “offset” emissions instead of eliminating them. Worse, many of these offsets are actually bogus, and, what’s more, they are outsourced to the global south, impacting rights and livelihoods.

The 2050 cut off is also far too late. The Paris Agreement commits us to limit global warming to as close to 1.5oC as possible – but we are already at 1.2oC above pre-industrial levels. It is hypocrisy to pat ourselves on the back for setting a target which remains a death sentence for millions in the global south.

Instead, we need to push our government to decarbonise as fast as possible.

Doing our Fair Share?

Is the UK doing its fair share? While Britain is the 16th highest carbon emitter in the world today, when we bring historical emissions into play, we rise to 6th highest. It is vital that so-called “developed” countries decarbonise faster than countries without a long history of high-carbon consumption.

Again, the government’s targets fails to take into account the UK’s history as a major colonial power and the emissions caused in the pursuit of Empire, which is why campaigners argue that we should really aim for a 200% reduction – as close as possible to 100% decarbonisation at home, while using finance and technology to help other countries reduce emissions by a further 100% of UK levels.

This may sound like a hugely ambitious project, but Saturday’s announcement shows that we can win and that people power works. I hope that this victory brings you some joy as it has done for me, and we hope to see you next year as we mobilise for COP26.


Photo: Boris Johnson announces an end to fossil fuel support at the Climate Ambition Summit. Credit: Number 10/Flickr.