A government agency in the UK is financing fossil fuel projects overseas that are estimated to emit around 69 million tonnes of greenhouse gases every year, according to a new investigation.
The projects are backed by UK Export Finance (UKEF) – a government agency in the Department for International Trade – that provides loans and financial guarantees to UK companies involved in major projects around the world.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently announced the government will put an immediate end to using taxpayers’ money to support coal mining and coal-fired power stations in developing countries.
The research by BBC Newsnight and Greenpeace’s investigation unit Unearthed, however, found no coal plants have been financed since 2002 but all the fossil fuel projects supported by UKEF are oil and gas-related, which will emit the equivalent greenhouse gas emissions from 17 coal plants.
These projects include oil wells off the coast of Brazil to the construction of oil refineries and petrochemical plants in Bahrain, Oman, and India.
Rebecca Newsom, Head of politics at Greenpeace UK said: “The UK Government is acting like someone pouring both water and petrol on a house on fire. It’s time for ministers to decide whether Britain wants to be a global climate leader or the slush fund of the fossil fuel industry.
“This rank hypocrisy must end before the crucial UN climate summit later this year and the government should put their money where their mouth is. Britain can’t be in the absurd position of encouraging other countries to make stronger commitments on cutting carbon emissions, while at the same time putting billions of pounds behind developments that will only increase those emissions.
“What makes this even worse is that a lot of these fossil fuel projects are in the Global South, where people are being hit hardest by the climate emergency despite having done the least to cause it.”
A report from the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) last year found 96% of UKEF’s energy investment between 2013 and 2017 went to fossil fuel projects – a fifth of all its investments.
Kerry McCarthy MP, a Labour member of the EAC tweeted: “The Government’s efforts to reach climate targets here in the UK count for virtually nothing if they’re spending £billions of UK taxpayers money on funding fossil fuel projects around the world, locking other countries into high carbon dependency for decades to come.”
Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, former leader and co-leader of The Green Party added: “The prime minister’s promise of no more money for coal is hollow greenwash when UK export finance for oil & gas deals rose 5-fold in 2018/19.
“We’re hosting the UN climate summit @COP26in November while fuelling dirty energy around the world This is not climate leadership.”
A government spokesperson said: “We are committed to working with countries across the world to unlock their renewable energy potential and support their transition away from fossil fuels to cleaner alternatives.
“This week we announced that we will no longer support thermal coal mining or coal power plants overseas, ending direct Official Development Assistance, investment and export credit.”