United Kingdom - Climate


The UK’s climate funding took a dip in 2020, but remains well-above 2016 spending

In 2020, the UK committed US$2 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 37% of the UK’s bilateral allocable ODA committed in 2020, above the DAC average of 23%. The UK’s climate-related ODA increased from US$1.5 billion in 2016 to US$2 billion in 2020. The UK was the sixth-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 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change COP26, which runs from January 2021 to November 2022, after which the UK will hand the Presidency to Egypt. The UK has committed to doubling its international climate finance (ICF) to provide at least £11.6 billion (US$14.8 billion) between 2021-2026. ICF is a specific UK government investment to support developing countries in responding to the challenges and opportunities of climate change. The UK funds ICF exclusively through its ODA budget and the government has ring-fenced this funding, protecting it from budget cuts from 2021 onwards. This means ICF will account for approximately 14-17% of the annual ODA budget up to 2024. At 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% ODA/GNI.

The UK's 2021 Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, identifies climate change and biodiversity as the UK’s number one international priority moving forward. Climate change is also a priority for the UK’s international development strategy. The strategy reiterates the UK’s commitment to double its ICF contribution to at least £11.6 billion (US$15.6 billion) between 2021-2026 and commits to ensuring that this funding is equally split between mitigation and adaptation finance. It also commits the UK to ensure all new bilateral ODA is aligned with the Paris Agreement.

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

In 2020, 6% of the UK’s bilateral allocable ODA was spent on projects with a principal climate change component, below the DAC average of 9%. While bilateral allocable ODA funding to climate in 2020 slipped below the DAC average, from 2016 - 2019, the UK remained consistent in meeting the DAC average. 30% of the UK’s bilateral funding targeted climate change as a significant goal in 2020 compared to the DAC average of 14%. This was a significant increase from the percentage of the UK’s bilateral funding targeted toward climate change as a significant goal in 2019, which was only 17%. Additionally, 63% of the UK’s bilateral allocable ODA did not target climate change or was not screened against the Rio markers, below the DAC average (77%) but far from the government’s target of aligning all ODA with the Paris Agreement.

In 2020, only 3% of the UK’s climate-related ODA targeted both climate mitigation and climate adaptation. Mitigation (76%) received more funding than adaptation (28%), signaling a sharp shift away from adaptation and towards mitigation in 2020 compared to 2019. 37% of the UK’s climate-related ODA went to ‘financial services and business support’, 16% to ‘industry, construction, and mining’, 13% to ‘humanitarian support,’ and 8% to energy.

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 committed £1.4 billion (US$1.8 billion) to the GCF between 2020-2024, a doubling of the UK’s contribution;
  • Climate Investment Funds (CIF): The UK is the largest donor government contributor to the CIF, contributing a total of US$3.5 billion since it was established in 2008; and
  • Global Environment Facility (GEF): Between 2022-2026, the UK committed up to £330 million (US$423 million) to the GEF.

Climate finance is managed by the FCDO, BEIS, and Defra

The UK’s international climate finance is managed by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO; managed by the Department for International Development (DFID) before 2020), 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.

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 within the FCDO.

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