FCDO told to stop focusing on 'fast results' from climate change aid

MPs tell department to listen to local and marginalised communities when handling climate finance
The report urged the government to up its investments in green energy and cut fossil-fuel investments. Photo: Adobe Stock

MPs have urged the Foreign Office to do more to assist those affected by climate change after finding the department is focusing too much of its efforts on “fast results” than on tackling the root causes of vulnerability.

The International Development Committee said today that if the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office wants to achieve its stated aim of making “Global Britain” a “force for good”, it must support those most strongly affected by climate change directly.

The report, released as the UK prepares to host the Cop26 climate summit, urged the FCDO to turn its attention to supporting climate-vulnerable communities and grassroots organisations, while ensuring climate change-fighting programmes are long term and sustainable.

Earlier this year, then-foreign secretary Dominic Raab said he wanted Global Britain – the slogan under which the government wants to ensure the UK is outward-looking and influential on the global stage – should be a “force for good in the world” by increasing security and living standards globally, investing in communities and leading work to tackle global threats like climate change.

But the select committee said today it was “concerned that the FCDO might focus more on fast results than on tackling the root causes of social vulnerability in its interventions”.

“Furthermore, we are concerned that social vulnerability might be considered less a core focus of the UK’s delivery of climate action and more just another tick box in project design,” the report said.

“If adaptation is meant to protect the most marginalised people, the focus should be on improving their wellbeing and on the root causes of their social vulnerability.” 

As part of this, the report said the FCDO must listen to voices of people in these groups to improve the quality and sustainability of its programmes. It questioned the extent to which the “priorities and knowledge of marginalised groups are factored into measures tackling climate change” at the moment.

It said the FCDO was guilty of “investing in nature as a ‘default position’ instead of in partnership with local communities”, and that by doing so, it risked “reinforcing or even worsening the vulnerabilities of marginalised groups and contributing to their displacement, continued discrimination or impoverishment”.

The report also said the "force for good" aim was being undermined by govenment investments in fossil fuels. It urged the government to "drastically scale up" its investment in renewable energy abroad, and end exemptions that allow its private-sector investment arm, the CDC Group, to invest in fossil fuels.

"The government should also instruct CDC to publish a full list of its existing investments in coal, oil and gas and how they intend to divest from fossil fuels by 31 October 2022," it added.

Committee chair Sarah Champion said: “Tackling global climate change means tackling the social and economic problems of vulnerable communities most affected by it. That means appropriate funding but also sensitive, locally-inspired development schemes.

“There are some simple actions the government should do straight away – it’s a no brainer that it should start by ending all investments in projects involving fossil fuels. It’s the industrialised countries that caused most of the climate change. It’s now our moral duty – as well as being in our own interests – to help clean this dangerous mess up.”

Accessing climate finance a 'significant challenge'

Elsewhere, the report called on the department to recognise the “significant challenge” access to climate finance represents for these grassroots organisations, as well as for less-developed countries (LDC) and small island developing states (SIDS), it said.

The UK should therefore use its Cop presidency and position as a key donor to the multilateral climate funds to improve the way those funds are used, the MPs said. It should do this by pushing for simplified criteria for accrediting funds and assessing applications for climate finance from LDCs and SIDSs, as well as encouraging other donors to make direct access a priority in their investments in these countries.

'Full transparency' required

The MPs said work to improve the mechanisms for providing climate finance must not happen in isolation, but must be accompanied by “full transparency” about what funding is being provided.

“We believe that the current level of international climate finance is fundamentally over-reported, reducing the credibility of declarations and scope for achieving climate adaptation and resilience,” the report said.

They said the FCDO should “report in full transparency” how much of its climate-related funding is reaching local communities, to help third parties to track whether this is in line with the UN’s goal of channelling 70% of climate finance directly to local level.

To further improve transparency, the government should also host regular meetings during its Cop presidency between donors and institutions from LDCs and SIDSs that receive funds to clarify definitions of key terms such as “climate finance” and “new and additional” funding, the report said.

The report also urged the government to tell the MPs when it plans to publish its long-awaited international climate finance strategy.

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