Two-thirds back UK support for poorer countries to shift to clean energy – poll

·4-min read

Nearly two-thirds of people back Government commitments to provide financial and tech support to poorer countries to shift to clean energy, a poll suggests.

More people thought the Government should stick to its long-held promise to help developing countries move away from fossil fuels to cleaner tech than felt circumstances had changed and it could go back on its pledge.

And more than half agreed that everyone would suffer the consequences of climate change, so it was in Britain’s interests to help poor countries switch to clean energy, the YouGov survey of 1,750 people for climate think tank E3G found.

The findings are released as finance ministers from the G7 group of leading economies meet in London this week, ahead of a meeting of the countries’ leaders in Cornwall next week.

A UK aid label
More than half of people agreed it is in the UK’s interest to support other countries move to clean energy (Stefan Wermuth/PA)

A green recovery from the pandemic and climate finance for developing countries are set to be on the agenda at the meetings, and the UK Government is under pressure to reverse a recent cut to foreign aid.

Countries pledged more than a decade ago to provide 100 billion US dollars (£70 billion) a year by 2020 in additional finance to poorer nations to develop cleanly and cope with the impacts of climate change, but are around 20 billion US dollars (£14 billion) short of the goal.

Analysis from aid agency Care International released ahead of the G7 meetings shows that the UK is one of the few countries to increase its climate finance, promising to double it to at least £11.6 billion over the next five years to 2025/26, with pressure on other countries to up their contributions.

But the UK has failed to live up to the promise that climate finance will be additional to existing aid pledges because of its cut to overseas development aid (ODA) from 0.7% of national income to 0.5%, the analysis said.

The Government is facing a growing bid by Tory rebels to reverse the cut, made because of the pandemic, with aid agencies and MPs warning it will cost lives in poorer parts of the world.

Campaigners have also warned that restoring the UK’s foreign aid budget and G7 countries delivering on promised climate finance are needed to restore trust with poorer nations and ensure the Cop26 summit in Glasgow in November is successful.

Now polling has revealed a clear majority of people (64%) support the Government’s 2010 commitment to provide financial and technological support to poorer countries to help them move away from fossil fuels and invest in clean energy, as part of its efforts to tackle climate change.

That includes more than half (52%) of Conservative voters quizzed and half of leave voters, the polling shows.

Just 23% opposed the financial and technological backing.

Quizzed over suggestions the UK could reverse its promise to help poorer countries on climate, 46% said the Government should maintain its pledge, while only 34% said circumstances have changed and ministers should go back on it.

More than half (51%) said it was in the interests of Britain to help poorer countries make the transition to clean energy, while 37% said the Government should put the UK first and other countries needed to fund the shift themselves.

Alex Scott, climate diplomacy and geopolitics lead at E3G, said: “This poll shows Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak must use upcoming G7 meetings to deliver the will of the British public and help developing countries transform their economies for climate safety.

“To be credible and persuade other G7 countries to step up their support, they must walk the talk and reverse their decision to cut the UK’s ODA spend.”

The polling also found 36% thought the Government reversing its promise of financial support would damage Britain’s power and influence abroad, a similar proportion to those who thought it would not make much difference (37%).

Asked what the impact would be if developing countries end up receiving support from China and Russia instead, 44% thought it would damage Britain’s power and influence and 31% thought it would not make much difference.