THE Foreign Office has been “subsidising poverty” by spending more than £2 million of the UK development aid budget on promoting projects to expand fossil-fuel industries overseas, including fracking, climate-change campaigners have said.
Analysis of Foreign Office data, in a report released on Monday by the energy watchdog Platform, in partnership with the campaign charities Christian Aid and Friends of the Earth, lists 16 projects funded through the Prosperity Fund between 2016 and 2018.
This included two projects to promote shale-gas drilling in China, as well as others to support the expansion of oil and gas industries in Brazil, Mexico, India, and Myanmar.
These projects represent almost 30 per cent of the Prosperity Fund’s overall energy spend, the report, A False Promise of Prosperity, states. The Fund was set up, the government website states, to support programmes “reducing poverty overseas”, from Angoli to Vietnam.
“Rather than funding prosperity, the Prosperity Fund is subsidising poverty,” Christian Aid’s global lead on climate change, Dr Kat Kramer, said.
“It is a perversity beyond measure to be subsidising fossil-fuel companies to cause climate-change impacts, which affect the poorest and most vulnerable the most. There is no such thing as a ‘clean’ fossil fuel, and, since real clean alternatives exist — including energy demand reduction and efficiency measures, and renewable sources of energy — there is no excuse to be funding these sources of dangerous climate change.”
The UK has signed the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which include taking “urgent action” on climate change. As a member of the G20, and as part of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the UK is also committed to phasing out fossil-fuel subsidies, the report warns.
“Subsidies to fossil producers is the antithesis of sustainable development support — which is the raison d’être of the Prosperity [Fund],” Dr Kramer said.
A campaigner for Friends of the Earth, Rose Dickinson, said: “Our Government’s claim to be climate leaders cannot be taken seriously while it continues to push fracking at home and abroad. We need to be moving away from fossil fuels, not showing other countries the best way to dig up more. Public money should not be used to fund further climate chaos.”
The report comes after the Energy Minister, Claire Perry, told a private meeting of fracking firms in October that she hoped to “create a ‘UK model’ for shale-gas extraction which can be exported around the world”. She had earlier accused campaigners against fracking of promoting “wild myths”.
Barbara Richardson, a spokeswoman from Frack Free Lancashire, where fracking has reportedly ceased temporarily after triggering a series of minor earthquakes, said: “It is quite unbelievable that the UK should have the hubris to suggest that it can export a regulatory system that is clearly not fit for purpose.”
A spokesperson for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said this week: “The UK’s aid investment is creating a safer, healthier, and more prosperous world, and is in the UK’s interest.
“Gas has the potential to be a reliable energy source as countries transition towards a clean-energy future, and these programmes are aimed at sharing UK expertise to help ensure that their exploration or development of resources like natural gas is done to high environmental standards.”