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Climate Change

Volume 659: debated on Wednesday 1 May 2019

Tackling climate change is a priority for the Government. We have committed £5.8 billion to help developing countries to reduce emissions and to manage the impacts of climate change. To date, our support has helped 47 million people cope with the effects of climate change and supported 17 million people to gain access to clean energy.

The latest round of funding for the Darwin Initiative has committed £10 million of funding for 52 international projects. Can the Minister confirm that those projects will support and enhance biodiversity and the natural environment right across the globe?

I welcome the way in which the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has allocated that money. Of course, it is overseas development assistance money that helps to support and enhance biodiversity in countries that are eligible for overseas development assistance.

It is very welcome that the Government are doing more to help developing countries with climate change, but the reality, as I have seen for myself, is that the Chinese are leaving a very large carbon footprint in African countries. What more can the Government do to persuade the Chinese to do better in Africa?

I know that my hon. Friend is an aide to the Chancellor and I know that the Chancellor was in China this week emphasising in his remarks the importance of taking into account the sustainable development goals in development projects. I am very pleased to see that 78 countries, including China, have issued green bonds here in the City of London, with eight different currencies raising $24.5 billion towards sustainable development. The UK has really shown leadership on this initiative.

Further to that question by the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman), does the Minister concede that we must all do what we can to reduce the impact of climate change, but that very significant pressure must be applied to those at the very top in that regard, such as China and some African countries?

It is really important that we all recognise that the world has signed up to sustainable development goals. Part of that sustainability means that any new investments should avoid fossil fuels as much as possible. We have shown leadership on that recently. For example, the recent round of bids from the Green Climate Fund, which we helped to fund, has led to a lot of renewable energy projects in Africa and elsewhere.

Given the growing climate crisis, should it not be the Department’s top priority to ensure sustainable development, diversification, the end of deforestation, public transport, clean energy and everything else?

Of course that is a very important priority. Humanitarian assistance continues to be what we spend most on, but the emphasis of that can also be sustainability. We do a great deal to ensure that. The £5.8 billion that we have so far contributed to international climate finance gives an idea of the level of our commitment to this issue around the world.

I have seen for myself how Tearfund’s programme of providing solar technology in countries such as Bangladesh has transformed the lives of young people, so I am pleased to hear that DFID will extend those efforts into Africa. Does the Minister agree that young people having the chance to study under light at night will help to improve their life chances significantly?

It is so important that we recognise access to electricity and that we encourage it to be through renewable sources, including off-grid. We recently held a big event here in London for African Energy Ministers, to show them their options on things such as sustainable and clean mini-grids. The UK can do a huge amount in offering both technical and financial expertise.

We all heard amid last week’s climate change protest that low to middle-income countries will be hardest hit. The UK Government continue to tell us that they are world-leading in helping those countries to tackle climate change. However, in 2017-18, fossil fuels made up not 60%, 70% or even 80% but a shocking 99.4% of UK Export Finance’s energy support to those countries, locking them into dependency on high-carbon energy. Does the Minister agree that all this talk of commitment to cutting greenhouse gases is nothing more than simply hot air?

I am sure the hon. Gentleman will want to raise questions about UK Export Finance when he has the chance to question our colleagues from the Department for International Trade. DFID’s focus is very much on encouraging access to electricity from renewable sources. So far some 17 million people around the world have gained access to clean energy thanks to our investment.

I wonder whether the Minister will today commit to auditing and publishing UK aid spending on fossil fuels through the CDC, the prosperity fund and multilateral organisations?

I am pretty sure that a lot of that information is already in the public domain. I can confirm to the hon. Gentleman my understanding that the CDC has made no new investments in fossil fuels since 2012.[Official Report, 8 May 2019, Vol. 659, c. 8MC.]

The Labour party has committed to divesting DFID of all fossil fuel projects, which directly undermine the global goals on climate and sustainable energy.

“It’s time we admitted that there’s more to life than money, and it’s time we focused not just on GDP but on…general wellbeing.”

Those are not my words but David Cameron’s. GDP is a crude indicator that tells us nothing of people’s wellbeing, inequality levels or the health of our planet. However, this Secretary of State seems concerned only with increased competition and mobilising private finance to deliver the global goals. Is it not time that the Government woke up to the need for new policies and measures that focus on people and planet?

In that case, I am sure the hon. Gentleman welcomes the fact that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is the human capital champion at the World Bank. He will be aware of the extensive impact that our spending has on both health and education around the world. We are taking part in the voluntary national review of the sustainable development goals. I am sure he will welcome that, according to a recent UN study, the UK has actually become a happier country and has increased its happiness in the world.