Above Photo: A vendor weighs coal for a customer in Lucknow, India. The country has been one of the top five beneficiaries of UK energy support this decade. Photograph: Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP
Nearly half of £6.1bn energy spending in developing countries from 2010-14 went on oil, coal and gas-fired schemes, data shows
The UK has spent more than twice as much overseas support on fossil fuels projects as on renewable ones so far this decade, according to research commissioned by the Catholic aid agency Cafod.
The Overseas Development Institute, which analysed the figures, found that 46% of Britain’s £6.1bn energy spending in developing countries between 2010 and 2014 went on oil, coal and gas-fired schemes, compared with 22% for renewable energy projects.
Overall, fossil fuel support increased by nearly £1bn this decade compared with the previous five years, with a staggering 99.4% of UK export finance support directed towards “dirty” energy investments.
Cafod called on the government to clarify how it would bring public support for overseas projects into line with climate commitments under the Paris agreement.
Dr Sarah Wykes, Cafod’s lead energy analyst, said: “To tackle climate change we have to leave fossil fuels in the ground and switch rapidly to renewable sources of energy.
“Yet the UK carrying on a business as usual spending pattern overseas in recent years suggests a huge inconsistency in policy and a missed opportunity to promote greater investment in renewable technologies, as the Department for International Development (DfID) has tried to do through its spending.”
While UK export finance uses public funds to bolster British exports, DfID’s energy spending – 32% of which went to renewables compared with 22% for fossil fuels – is intended as overseas aid
The top five beneficiaries of UK energy support this decade were Brazil, Vietnam, Turkey, India and the Russian Federation, according to the ODI figures.
Of the money earmarked for fossil fuels, oil and gas received a total of 87% of UK funds, with 9% going to coal.
“It doesn’t make sense for there to still be any public money going into fossil fuels overseas, whether that’s through aid money, loans or export finance to support British companies operating overseas,” Wykes said.
Aid agencies see support for small-scale solar and wind projects as vital for connecting poor communities in remote areas to electricity grids.
But only 8% of British aid spending aimed to improve energy access for the poor, Cafod said, despite the UK having signed up to a UN sustainable goal of ensuring universal energy access for all by 2030.
Twenty-nine per cent of UK energy aid in 2010-14 went to investments using fossil fuels and renewables, or where the energy source could not be identified. One per cent was spent on nuclear power and 2% on energy efficiency.