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Climate Emergency

Volume 661: debated on Thursday 6 June 2019

1. What assessment he has made of the effect of the climate emergency on his Department’s priorities. (911154)

There should be no distinction at all between the work that we do on international development and the work that we do on climate and the emergency. We face a climate cataclysm, and if we get this wrong, 100 million more people will be in poverty. I would therefore like, as Secretary of State for International Development, to double the amount that our Department spends within our budget on climate and the environment, and to double the effort that the Department puts into that issue.

I welcome the Minister to the Dispatch Box in his new Cabinet role, and I warmly welcome his clear and genuine commitment to tackling the climate emergency. Does he accept, however, that there is a contradiction between the excellent work that his Department does in helping to mitigate and adapt to the climate emergency in developing countries and the way in which, through UK Export Finance, we continue to subsidise fossil fuels to the tune of billions of pounds? Will he use his leadership in Government, in whatever form, to ensure that he pushes to stop those fossil fuel subsidies?

This is of course a very serious challenge. That is fundamentally an issue for the Department for International Trade, but the hon. Lady is absolutely right to say that it is extremely important, when we think about an environment and climate strategy for the Government, to be fully joined up, particularly in relation not only to what the DIT does but to what we do through the Commonwealth and through CDC’s investments to ensure that they tie in with our climate and environment priorities.

The $100 billion climate finance commitment made by developed countries including the UK is separate from the international aid commitment, as climate finance is an additional challenge to development, yet the UK’s climate finance currently comes entirely from the aid budget, displacing spending on health, education and life-saving measures. The Minister has just explained that this will come from existing funds, so how are the Government exploring alternative sources of climate finance to take the pressure off the aid budget?

There is a range of climate finance initiatives that we could pursue, including green bonds here in the United Kingdom, but fundamentally, all the investments we make in health, education and economic development need to be proofed for the environment and climate. The distinction between these two things is often deeply misleading because, as the World Bank has just pointed out, if we do not get the climate and environment right, we will have 100 million more people living in poverty.

The United Nations framework for combating climate change has three pillars: mitigation; adaptation; and loss and damage. Does the Secretary of State agree with the United Nations framework convention on climate change that loss and damage to property is a huge consequence of climate change? If so, why do the UK Government allocate official development assistance spending only to mitigation and adaptation?

These are difficult choices that we have to make. We are currently leading in the United Nations on the resilience pillar. It is very important, and I think everybody in this House—indeed, in the country—would want to ensure that the next COP summit is hosted in London next year, so that we can take on the baton from Paris, but in order to do that we need to show a distinctive contribution. It is in resilience that we shall be leading the UN discussions, both in Abu Dhabi and then in the UN in September. I think that is where the UK should position itself.