Ministers have been told to come clean on suspicions the UK will break promises to fund climate crisis help for poorer nations, after failing to set out what money is being provided.
As the crucial Cop27 summit opens, the government is refusing to set out its recent contributions to a crucial global fund – despite Boris Johnson pledging to boost spending to an average of £2.3bn a year.
Figures seen by The Independent show only £1.3bn was paid in 2020, the most recent statistic provided, as rich nations were condemned for failing to meet a $100bn annual target set a decade earlier.
Meanwhile, with cuts to the overall aid budget set to continue for many more years, the UK’s promise to pay up for helping to cause the climate emergency – as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution – is in growing doubt.
Campaigners said Rishi Sunak, as he arrives in Egypt, must reveal how much is being provided in so-called “international climate finance”, to help developing countries cope with the devastating impact of a changing climate.
The Climate Action Network said the UK “must stand by its commitments” to the most at-risk nations, while the Overseas Development Institute condemned “a lack of accountability”.
Ed Miliband, the shadow climate change secretary, accused the government of “disastrous abdication of leadership, abandoning those on the front lines of the climate crisis”.
“As the UK’s Cop presidency comes to an end, it’s clear that the promises developed countries made to developing countries over a decade ago will still not have been delivered,” he said.
The UK’s failure to release any spending figures since 2020 is revealed after the UN’s humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said, of the promised $100bn fund: “We are scrambling to try to understand where the climate money is, that was promised a decade ago.”
The UK had already been accused of breaking the rules of the fund because, as The Independent revealed, the cash is being swiped from the shrinking aid budget – despite a requirement that it be “additional”.
The $100bn goal was first set by the United Nations in 2009 – to be reached by 2020 – but will not be met until 2023 on the latest figures, which could be updated at Cop27.
The fund is seen as crucial to winning the trust of developing countries to make their own CO2-cutting commitments but stood $20bn short in 2019.
Germany and France are among the leading contributors, while Australia, Canada and the US are low payers – and Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece have been criticised for confusion over the issue.
The UK gave £1.18bn in 2019 and £1.33bn in 2020, the Foreign Office has revealed, but it said the contribution in 2021 will only be released “in due course”.
Catherine Pettengell, UK director of the Climate Action Network, said the UK missed a September deadline to make a £260m payment towards green climate finance.
“The UK used its Cop26 presidency to urge other countries to do more on climate finance, but it now needs to live up to its own commitments,” she said.
“It has been a difficult year for all, but none of the crises we currently face are helped by slowing or reversing action on climate change – and in fact, all of them are made worse by this.”
Dr Laetitia Pettinotti, a senior research officer at the Overseas Development Institute, said: “The fact that we don’t know yet if the climate finance pledged by the UK at Cop26 is on track to be disbursed is symptomatic of a lack of accountability.
“We don’t know if the new government will keep this pledge. Climate finance is supposed to be predictable and adequate and we are far from it.”
The Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office has been asked to respond to the criticism and explain why more recent climate finance contributions have not been revealed.
Mr Sunak will fly to Egypt on Sunday – after initially saying he was too busy to attend the summit – where Boris Johnson is also expected during the two-week event.