U.K. Pledges $8.8 Billion in Climate Aid Through to March 2021

  • British promise represents 50% increase in climate assistance
  • Aid to be split between cutting emissions, adapting to warming

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to increase climate aid by a half in a bid to break the deadlock on one of the thorniest issues dividing developed and developing nations as they seek to broker a new deal to rein in global warming.

Britain will channel 5.8 billion pounds ($8.8 billion) of assistance from its overseas-aid budget to its International Climate Fund over the five years through March 2021, Cameron said Sunday in an e-mailed statement. Britain will also try to leverage nearly as much again in private finance to complement the assistance.

“We will increase the amount of aid we spend on climate finance over the next five years, helping communities around the world become more resilient to flooding and drought and providing clean, reliable energy,” Cameron said before a meeting in New York on Sunday with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and other world leaders. “That energy not only keeps the lights on, it also improves health and education, spurs economic growth and creates jobs.”

Cameron is attempting to tackle one of the most contentious issues as envoys from more than 190 nations aim to finalize a new deal to fight climate change at a UN summit in Paris in December. Industrialized countries pledged in 2009 to increase climate aid to $100 billion a year by 2020 but have since spurned requests from developing nations to spell out how they’ll achieve that.

Final Push

The meeting in New York is between about 30 world leaders, including French President Francois Hollande and his Peruvian counterpart, Ollanta Humala. Peru oversaw the UN climate talks last year and has worked closely with France to co-ordinate this year’s final push to secure a deal that would for the first time bind all nations to reduce emissions. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol set binding targets only for developed countries.

The U.K. contribution in 2020 will be 1.76 billion pounds, Cameron said. Assuming that’s matched by an equal amount of private funding, it would account for more than 5 percent of the $100 billion dollar promise, which included public and private finance.

Developing Nations

Even so, Cameron’s vow to allocate the funds from the U.K.’s overseas aid budget may not satisfy the G77 group of developing nations, which has consistently called for the climate assistance to be “new and additional” to existing aid budgets. 

“We can’t end poverty and promote sustainable development without addressing climate change,” Cameron said.

In a nod to one of the bloc’s demands, Cameron said U.K. assistance will be split evenly between efforts to cut emissions in the developing world, such as renewable-energy projects, and programs to help the poorest nations adapt to the inevitable effects of higher temperatures, such as longer droughts, more severe storms and rising sea levels. Developing nations, already suffering from some impacts of warmer temperatures, say it’s hard to attract private funding to adaptation programs, with most climate aid being channeled into mitigation efforts that reduce emissions.

The U.K.’s International Climate Fund was set up in 2011 to channel assistance to climate-related projects in the developing world. Funding through March 2016 will total 3.87 billion pounds.

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