United Kingdom - Climate
At a glance
Climate-related ODA is increasing, the government have committed to aligning UK ODA with the Paris agreement
In 2018, the UK committed US$2.0 billion of its bilateral allocable ODA to projects which targeted action against climate change as a principal or significant objective, making it the fourth-largest Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) donor to the issue, in absolute terms. This represented 29% of the UK’s bilateral allocable ODA committed in 2018, above the DAC average of 22%, making the UK the ninth-largest donor in relative terms.
The UK’s climate-related ODA has broadly increased over the last five years, fluctuating from a low of US$638 in 2014 to a high of US$2.1 billion in 2015.
Climate finance: funding for projects tagged in the OECD’s Creditor Reporting System (CRS) database with the Rio markers for climate change mitigation and/or climate change adaptation. Projects can be tagged with either or both markers.
Each marker has three possible scores:
- Principal, for projects in which climate change mitigation or adaptation is a fundamental and explicitly stated goal;
- Significant, for projects in which climate change mitigation or adaptation is not a key driver but still an explicitly stated goal; or
- Not targeted, meaning the project does not address climate change mitigation or adaptation.
Not all projects are screened against the Rio markers; this funding falls into the ‘not screened’ category.
The UK sees itself as a global leader in climate action; it was the first major economy to introduce a net zero greenhouse gas emissions target. Alongside Australia, it led the development of the Roadmap to US$100 billion, detailing how developed countries would achieve the pledge to mobilize US$100 billion in climate finance every year by 2020. In partnership with Egypt, the UK led the adaptation and resilience strand of the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York. In June 2019, the UK government pledged to align all UK ODA with the Paris Agreement, but it is not clear what this will mean in practice. At the UK-Africa Investment summit in January 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged that the UK will not use ODA or export credits to fund coal-related projects in partner countries. Environmentalists called for the government to also stop using ODA to fund projects related to oil and gas. The UK was due to host the 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) in Glasgow in November 2020 however this has been delayed to November 2021 due to the COVID-19 crisis.
In their 7th National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCCC) submitted in December 2017, the UK committed to providing at least £5.8 billion (US$7.7 billion) in international climate finance between 2016/17 and 2020/21. According to their submission, this is a ring-fenced portion of the Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget which is ‘additional to historic ODA levels and is not diverting or detracting from broader development spending.’ In September 2019, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, pledged to double the UK’s international climate finance spending in partner countries to at least £11.6 billion (US$15.5 billion) between 2021/22 to 2025/26. As part of this pledge, the government established a new £1 billion (US$1.3 billion) climate change research fund – the Ayrton Fund.
A fifth of the UK’s bilateral allocable ODA is principally climate-related
Relative to other donors, more of the UK’s bilateral allocable ODA has a principal rather than a significant climate focus. In 2018, 22% of the UK’s bilateral allocable ODA was spent on projects with a principal climate change component, above the DAC average of 7%. Principally climate related funding increased substantially between 2017 to 2018, from US$463 million to US$1.5 billion in line with the government’s commitment to double spending on climate finance.
7% of the UK’s bilateral funding targeted climate change as a significant goal in 2018, compared to the DAC average of 15%. 71% of the UK’s bilateral allocable ODA did not target climate change or was not screened against the Rio markers, better than the DAC average of 78% but far from the government’s target of aligning all ODA with the Paris Agreement.
More than half (54%) of the UK’s climate-related ODA targets both climate mitigation and climate adaptation. Mitigation receives more funding than adaptation (91% of climate-related funding is marked as mitigation and 63% as adaptation.) 45% of the UK’s climate-related ODA went to agriculture, 20% to energy, 9% to other multisector and 9% to environmental protection.
The UK is a significant contributor to climate multilaterals
The UK’s international climate finance includes commitments to climate multilaterals. The UK has committed £1.4 billion (US$1.9 billion) to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), between 2020-2023, a 50% increase from their previous commitment. They are the largest contributor to the Climate Investment Funds (CIF), contributing a total of $3.0 billion since it was established in 2008. Between 2018-2022, they have committed up to £250 million (US$333 million) to the Global Environment Facility (GEF), 20% of which is conditional on the GEF making improvements to increase their impact.
UK International climate finance was managed by the Department for International Development and the UK’s business and environmental departments
Before the merger of the Department for International Development (DFID), the UK’s international climate finance was managed by three government departments, the former DFID, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Each of the departments focused on a different aspect of the UK’s international climate finance: DFID focused on supporting partner countries to become more resilient to climate change, including through climate-sensitive agriculture. It also helped partner countries develop low carbon economic growth strategies. BEIS focuses on supporting low carbon development in countries with high or growing emissions, promoting decarbonization, and stopping deforestation. Defra’s focus is on sustainable natural resource management, supporting biodiversity, and food security. Relevant people from across the three departments were brought together several times a year through the International Climate Finance Management and Strategy boards.
Unless otherwise indicated, all data in this section is based on commitment. For more information, see our Donor Tracker Codebook.