Working towards a sustainable environment

The UK’s International Development Secretary Rory Stewart has revealed plans to double the amount of foreign aid spent on climate-related projects to over the next five years.

DFID currently has a £1.1bn annual budget for foreign climate initiatives

DFID currently has a £1.1bn annual budget for foreign climate initiatives

In an exclusive interview with The Times this week, Stewart said he would like the £1.1bn sum that the Department for International Development (DFID) spends on climate mitigation and adaptation projects overseas annually to rise to £2.2bn by 2024.

During the interview, he reiterated his ambition to “make DFID centred on climate change and the environment” and argued that the increased funding would be necessary in an age of “climate cataclysm”.

“Quite literally, the ice shelf is going ten times more quickly than people expected, we’re about to lose maybe a million species on Earth, and that’s even before you count the fact that 100 million more people will be in poverty unless we tackle this,” Stewart said, citing World Bank research which concluded that climate change will push an additional 100 million people into poverty by 2030.

While the statement from Stewart was not an official piece of DFID communications, the Department has supported his sentiments. In a statement, a spokesperson for DFID wrote: “Tackling climate change is not only the right thing to do, but it is the smart thing to do. Britain cannot solve such problems alone, here in the UK; these are global problems that require a global solution.”

The spokesperson highlighted some of the major climate-related projects which DFID has funded in recent years, which have provided 17 million people with access to clean power and 47 million people with infrastructure and education aimed at helping them adapt to the impacts of global warming and cope after natural disasters.

More recently, the Department this March confirmed plans to double the amount of financial aid it will send to developing nations to help combat plastic pollution and boost plastic recycling rates overseas from £3m in 2018 to £6m this year.

Tory leadership contest

The interview given by DFID’s Stewart comes as part of the Conservative MP’s bid for leadership of the party.

Incumbent Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed last week that she would step down from her post on 7 June and Stewart is one of 11 Party members to have confirmed they are running to replace her; namely former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson; Environment Secretary Michael Gove; former Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom; former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab; Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt; Brexit Minister James Cleverly;  Home Secretary Sajid David; Health Secretary Matthew Hancock; former Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey; housing minister Kit Malthouse and Stewart himself.

Stewart is currently (as of 30 May) the sixth favourite to take the post, according to The Guardian’s odds tracker, which places Gove as second favourite to Johnson. Stewart has previously said that if he were elected, his first policy move would be to mandate the planting of 120,000 native trees across the UK within a four-month timeframe.

Sarah George