The UK will end direct taxpayer support for overseas fossil fuel projects in the effort to tackle climate change, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced.
The move was announced ahead of the recent international online Climate Ambition Summit, which was co-hosted by the UK. It will see the UK end export finance, aid funding and trade promotion for new crude oil, natural gas or thermal coal projects, with very limited exceptions.
The move marks a significant change, as in the last four years the government supported £21 billion of UK oil and gas exports through trade promotion and export finance. The policy will be implemented after a short period of consultation and is intended to come into force as soon as possible, and before COP 26 next November.
The announcement will expedite the shift to supporting green technology and renewable energy, creating jobs across the UK and driving international growth in the industry.
Graham Gordon, Head of Policy at Catholic aid agency, CAFOD, welcomed the announcement as “a huge step forward in the UK’s leadership on climate change”.
“We welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to stop funding fossil fuels overseas as soon as possible, and before next year’s COP 26 in Glasgow,” he told The Catholic Universe. “We urge other governments and businesses to make ambitious commitments to keep global warming well below 1.5 degrees to protect current and future generations.”
The UK co-hosted the virtual Climate Ambition Summit with the UN and France and in partnership with Italy and Chile on Saturday 12th December, marking five years since the landmark Paris Climate Agreement.
At least 75 world leaders – from Justin Trudeau to Narendra Modi and Pope Francis – participated in the event, alongside the UN Secretary General, businesses such as Apple and Legal & General, city mayors and civil society groups.
Announcing the end to UK spending on fossil fuels overseas ahead of the Summit, Mr Johnson acknowledged that climate change is “one of the great global challenges of our age”, as he warned that it is already costing lives and livelihoods the world over.
“Our actions as leaders must be driven not by timidity or caution, but by ambition on a truly grand scale,” he said.
“That is why the UK recently led the way with a bold new commitment to reduce emissions by at least 68 per cent by 2030, and why I’m pleased to say today that the UK will end taxpayer support for fossil fuel projects overseas as soon as possible.
“By taking ambitious and decisive action today, we will create the jobs of the future, drive the recovery from coronavirus and protect our beautiful planet for generations to come,” he added.
During the Summit, Pope Francis told participants that now is the time to change direction, as he said Vatican City State will work to reduce net emissions to zero by 2050.
“The effects of the ongoing pandemic and climate change – which are relevant not only for the environment but also for the spheres of ethics, society, economics, and politics – weigh most heavily upon the lives of the poor and vulnerable,” he said.
“The time has come to change direction. Let us not rob younger generations of their hope in a better future.”
Picture: A power plant emitting smoke. (Peter Gudella).