United Kingdom - Climate


The UK, the host of COP26, seeks to take a leading role in tackling climate change

In 2019, 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 fifth-largest Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) donor to the issue, in absolute terms. This represented 23% of the UK’s bilateral allocable ODA committed in 2019, in line with the DAC average. The UK’s climate-related ODA has increased from US$1.4 billion in 2016 to US$2.0 billion in 2019. The UK is the 17th-largest donor in relative terms. 

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 adaption. Projects can be tagged with either or both markers.

Each marker has three possible scores:

1) principal, for projects in which climate change mitigation or adaptation is a fundamental and explicitly stated goal,

2) significant, for projects in which climate change mitigation or adaptation is not a key driver but still an explicitly stated goal, or

3) 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 is the current President of the UN COP26 which runs from January 2021 to November 2022 after which the UK will handover the Presidency to Egypt. It has committed to doubling its international climate finance (ICF) to provide at least £11.6 billion (US$14.8 billion) between 2021-2025. The UK funds ICF exclusively through its ODA budget and the government has ring-fenced this funding, protecting it from ODA budget cuts from 0.7% to 0.5% of GNI from 2021 onwards.  This means ICF will account for approximately 14-17% of the annual ODA budget up to 2024. At the COP26, the UK also committed an additional US$1.3 billion (£1 billion) in ICF funding to be made available in 2025. The funding is conditional on the UK meeting key fiscal tests and returning to 0.7% GNI to ODA. A new strategy outlining the UK’s future priorities for its International Climate Finance is due to be published by April 2022.

Action against climate change and biodiversity loss is a strategic priority of the 2021 Integrated Review of UK Security, Defence, Foreign Policy and Development. In the Integrated Review, the UK focused on the acceleration of the global transition to net zero, strengthening climate adaptation, biodiversity loss reversal, and regenerative ecosystems. It also reaffirmed its pledge to align all UK ODA with the Paris Agreement, but it remains unclear what this will mean in practice. Overall, UK’s funding towards ‘climate change and biodiversity loss’ is expected to increase considerably as a share of ODA.

UK’s bilateral allocable ODA is somewhat in line with DAC averages

In 2019, 6% of the UK’s bilateral allocable ODA was spent on projects with a principal climate change component, below the DAC average of 7%. Bilateral allocable ODA funding to climate from 2016 to 2019 is somewhat in line with DAC averages with exception of funding in 2018 when the UK  government committed to double spending on climate finance. Principally climate-related funding nearly tripled between 2017 and 2018, from US$452 million to US$1.5 billion.

17% of the UK’s bilateral funding targeted climate change as a significant goal in 2019, compared to the DAC average of 16%. 77% of the UK’s bilateral allocable ODA did not target climate change or was not screened against the Rio markers, in line with the DAC average but far from the government’s target of aligning all ODA with the Paris Agreement.

In 2019, 21% of the UK’s climate-related ODA targets both climate mitigation and climate adaption. Adaptation (73%) received more funding than mitigation (48%). 22% of the UK’s climate-related ODA went to humanitarian support, 16% to energy, 14% to environmental protection, and 13% to agriculture. The share of funding to climate mitigation and adaptation has remained relatively stable since 2015, with exception of 2018.  In 2018, more than half (54%) of the UK’s climate-related ODA targeted both climate mitigation and climate adaptation. Mitigation (91%) received more funding than adaptation (63%). 45% of the UK’s climate-related ODA went to agriculture, 20% to energy, 9% to other multisector, and 9% to environmental protection. These differences could be explained by the UK’s leading role as host of the COP26, and its commitment to double spending on climate finance. It is also leading the Adaptation Action Coalition, a coalition of countries that seek to build resilience to the impacts of climate change. As part of its leading role on climate, it urges other countries to increase their climate funding.

The UK is a significant contributor to climate multilaterals

The UK’s international climate finance includes commitments to climate multilaterals.

  • Green Climate Fund (GCF): The UK has committed £1.4 billion (US$1.9 billion) to the GCF, between 2020-2023, a doubling of the UK’s contribution.
  • Climate Investment Funds (CIF): The UK is the second-largest contributor to the CIF, contributing a total of $3.0 billion since it was established in 2008.
  • Global Environment Facility (GEF): Between 2018-2022, the UK has committed up to £250 million (US$319 million) to the GEF, of which nearly 20% is conditional on the GEF making improvements to increase their impact.

UK International climate finance managed by the FCDO and the UK’s business and environmental departments

From 2018 to 2021, the UK’s international climate finance for 2018-2021 is managed by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)  (before 2020 by 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 focuses on a different aspect of the UK’s international climate finance. The FCDO focuses on supporting partner countries to become more resilient to climate change and developing low carbon economic growth strategies. BEIS focuses on promoting decarbonization and stopping deforestation. Defra’s focus is on sustainable natural resource management, supporting biodiversity, and food security. It is not yet clear how international climate finance will be managed between 2021 and 2025.

The UK Prime Minister has appointed an International Champion on Adaptation and Resilience for the COP26 Presidency and an FCDO Special Envoy on Climate Change. Climate change thematic programs are managed under the Director-General of the Americas and Overseas Territories at present within the FCDO.

Unless otherwise indicated, all data in this section is based on commitment. For more information, see our Donor Tracker Codebook.