UK climate leadership seen weakened by aid cut for world’s poor

Source: Reuters Published: 2020/11/26 16:33:40

Boris Johnson, the new Prime Minister of the UK, leaves Admiralty House, London, for Buckingham Palace to see the Queen before heading to 10 Downing Street on July 24. Photo: VCG

Britain's decision to cut its aid budget will likely dent its reputation on the global diplomatic stage and may weaken a push for other wealthy governments to find more funding to help poor nations tackle climate change, aid groups and think tanks said.

UK finance minister Rishi Sunak told parliament on Wednesday that during a "fiscal emergency" sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic, "sticking rigidly to spending 0.7 percent of our national income on overseas aid is difficult to justify."

The temporary reduction to 0.5 percent of gross national income in 2021 will see aid spending drop about 3 billion pounds ($4 billion) from 2020, to 10 billion pounds.

How that money is allocated across government departments will be decided in an upcoming review, the Treasury said.

Stephanie Draper, head of Bond, a UK-based network of development NGOs, said the move was "a tragic blow for the world's most marginalized people" and would cost lives, with Britain's aid spending already down in 2020 as the economy contracted due to the pandemic.

She and others said 2021 was intended to be the year that reestablished Britain as a global player, after a messy withdrawal from the European Union and as it hosts the COP26 UN climate conference in November and the G7 summit.

Greenpeace UK's head of politics, Rebecca Newsom, said the decision to cut the aid budget would "fundamentally undermine the UK's climate leadership."


Posted in: EUROPE

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