The UK Government must act on today’s report by parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee about UK Export Finance, which calls for an end to UK taxpayer support for overseas fossil fuel projects by 2021.
UK Export Finance (UKEF), the UK’s export credit agency, underwrites loans and insurance for export deals as part of efforts to help British business overseas. Global Witness was instrumental in calling for Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee to set up the inquiry into UKEF.
Despite UK claims to climate leadership, and Government commitments under the Paris climate agreement, UKEF overwhelmingly supports fossil fuels, giving 99.4% of all its energy support to these dirty energy sources in the last measurable period.
This support included £109 million of underwriting for mining equipment for Russian coal mines between 2011 and 2016, support for an oil refinery in Oman in February 2018 and an another in Bahrain in October 2018. This UK government support to Bahrain came in the same week that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its report saying that the world had 12 years left to stop climate change becoming irreversible.
International criticism has been mounting, with former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon calling for UKEF to stop fossil fuel support saying that this would mark a test of the UK’s commitments on climate change.
Last month a separate committee of MPs, the International Development Committee, slammed the contradiction between UK spending on climate change aid and UKEF’s activities. In 2010 -16, UKEF supported £4.8 billion of fossil fuel projects, while in a similar period the UK’s total spend on its International Climate Fund, to mitigate climate change in developing countries, came to £4.9 billion.
The Environmental Audit Committee have recommended that the Government introduce a strategy to end all new fossil fuel support from UKEF by 2021.
Adam McGibbon, Senior Campaigner at Global Witness, said: “This unprecedented report should be a wake-up call. Last week, polling showed that British public concern about the climate crisis has hit a record high. The Government says that ‘climate change is an emergency’ but through UK Export Finance, the Government continues to spend billions on extracting fossil fuels in developing countries, making the climate crisis even worse.”
“For the first time, a Parliamentary committee has called for an end to taxpayer support for overseas fossil fuel projects. The Government must move immediately to end UKEF’s fossil fuel support, or all its talk of a ‘climate emergency’ will be seen as hollow words.”