UK aid bombshell – Climate Weekly

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Margaret holds UK-funded food aid for her malnourished 18-month-old James in drought-hit Turkana, Kenya (Picture: Russell Watkins/DFID/Flickr)


In the post-pandemic economic slump, efforts to eradicate poverty and hunger worldwide were already facing a huge setback.

What a moment, then, for Boris Johnson to signal a radical shift in priorities for UK aid, away from the poorest and towards middle income countries seen as critical to British interests.

The merger between the international development and foreign affairs ministries had been rumoured for a while but was not in Johnson’s election manifesto. Senior officials were told just hours before the public announcement. Aid experts and no fewer than three former prime ministers united in horror at the move.

It is not yet clear what this means for climate finance, which is subject to its own set of targets and rules. We can say it mainly affects programmes for coping with the impacts of climate change, as opposed to carbon-cutting initiatives run by the UK energy department.

Johnson alluded to Cop26 in his speech, the UN climate summit to be hosted by the UK next year. To the extent that a successful Cop26 is a foreign policy priority, it raises the prospect of deploying aid tactically to get countries on board with raising climate ambition.

Broadly, though, Johnson’s insistence that striking post-Brexit trade deals trumps the needs of people on the breadline risks alienating traditional allies.

Chloé Farand is digging into the impact of the decision. If you would like to share information in confidence, set up a ProtonMail account and email [email protected]. For non-sensitive email, use [email protected].

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