UK’s International Climate Finance commitments are weakening – Over 70 CSOs write to the Prime Minister

More than 70 UK civil society organisations from environment, international development, education, trade union, disability inclusion, trade, humanitarian, business, and faith groups have written to the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak today, Tuesday 31 October, to demand that the government reverses recent changes to UK international climate finance.

The letter is in response to the government’s publication of a written ministerial statement on international climate finance on 17th October that outlines significant changes to what counts as climate finance, as well as demonstrating that very little progress has been made towards fulfilling the commitment so far. 

Civil society organisations wrote to the Prime Minister in the summer to urge the government to keep its promise to provide £11.6bn over five years in international climate finance to developing countries that have been made vulnerable to climate change. Following assurances in the summer from the government that this commitment will be met, the October ministerial statement was published to show how it would be met. 

The statement reveals that in order to reach the target, the UK is now counting spending that previously did not qualify as UK international climate finance.

The letter, published with one month to go until COP 28, is co-ordinated by Climate Action Network UK (CAN-UK) with support from Bond and includes 60 signatures from organisations including Fairtrade Foundation, Greenpeace, Oxfam GB, Practical Action, RSPB, WWF UK and many more.

Catherine Pettengell, Executive Director of Climate Action Network UK (CAN-UK) said:

Changing the goalposts is not a credible or appropriate way for the UK to meet its international commitments, and today civil society organisations from across the UK are calling on the government to reverse this decision and retain both the quality and quantity of UK climate finance. Climate finance is a vital promise to keep to countries and communities on the frontline of a crisis not of their making, and simply relabelling other spending does nothing to help them, and instead undermines progress to collectively address the global challenge of climate change.

“It is a bitterly disappointing and short-sighted approach, and tears down the previously good standing in the world the UK had on climate finance and the UK’s ability to influence other countries to do more and better to deliver for communities on the frontline. “The government must not turn its back on countries and communities least responsible for the climate crisis but suffering its worst impacts. True leadership means taking responsibility for the UK’s historical emissions and the wealth that has generated and giving back fairly, to secure a better future for everyone.

Gideon Rabinowitz, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Bond said:

Expanding the definition of what counts as UK climate finance sets a dangerous precedent for other countries to meet their own climate commitments. This short-term thinking by the government damages the UK’s reputation as a reliable partner and sends a message to climate-vulnerable countries that the UK is watering down its promises.

Ben Wilson, Head of Advocacy at SCIAF said:

Tackling climate change requires significant financial investment across the world. But the costs of inaction will be far greater. Creative accounting and juking the stats is not a serious approach to meeting the UK’s climate finance commitments. It risks further eroding confidence in the UK as a climate leader globally, and deepening the lack of trust between the Global North and Global South ahead of crucial climate talks at COP28 in Dubai at the end of 2023.

Lyndsay Walsh, Climate Policy Adviser at Oxfam GB said:

This ‘delivery plan’ from the government kicks the can down the road on delivering vital international climate finance. Just as we need increased ambition ahead of the UN Climate Summit COP28, the UK is once again found lacking and serves yet another blow to its claimed ambition to be a climate leader.

These new ways of counting the UK’s climate finance lay the groundwork for a worrying reduction in the quality of climate finance and the possibility of double counting money from an already-overstretched aid budget. This opens the door for a decreasing proportion of grants being given, which are critical for lower income communities to respond to the escalating impacts of climate change without further embedding cycles of debt and poverty.

“Furthermore, the intention to increase the role of British International Investment (BII), which operates through financial intermediaries, will only mean the government has less control or oversight over where and how its international climate finance is spent.

Liz Cronin, Climate Change Policy Lead at CAFOD said:

Just a month before COP28, when the Pope has called for countries to step up to climate leadership, this is a huge step backwards. Instead of tearing up promises, the UK should be working tirelessly to find new forms of climate finance to support the poorest communities impacted by climate change, such as debt cancellation and taxing polluting businesses.

Sally Tyldesley, Advocacy Manager at Concern Worldwide said:

Climate finance should not be an accounting exercise; it has real implications for people already living with the impacts of climate change. People who have done the least to contribute to global warming are left dealing with the consequences of having to divert money away from their basic needs to take measures to protect themselves from climate extremes. “In the run up to the climate change negotiations at COP28, this move looks like a race to the bottom on quality and ambition on climate finance, and further erosion of the UK’s credibility on climate change.

Kate Norgrove, WWF-UK Executive Director of Advocacy and Campaigns, said:

Communities on the frontline of the climate crisis deserve better than yet another watering down of the UK Government’s commitments for climate and nature. Two years on from COP26, where the Government made many promises, now is the time for accelerated action and delivery. We have no right to expect other governments to step up to the challenge if we do not do so ourselves.


Notes to editors

  • More signatories may be added after this embargoed press release goes out until the letter is sent to the Prime Minister on the morning of Tuesday 31st October.
  • The letter – with the logos of the supporting organisations – will be sent to the Prime Minister tomorrow and published here.
  • More information and analysis on the written ministerial statement from CAN-UK can be found here.
  • Climate Action Network UK (CAN-UK) is the UK node of CAN, a global network of more than 1,900 civil society organisations in over 130 countries driving collective and sustainable action to fight the climate crisis and to achieve social and racial justice.  
  • Bond is the UK network for organisations working in international development. Bond unites and supports a diverse network of nearly 400 civil society organisations from across the UK, and allies to help eradicate global poverty, inequality and injustice. 
  • For further information or interviews, please contact Jess Salter, Media Adviser at Bond at [email protected] or call 07493200979.