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British Lawmakers Urge Pullout From Foreign Fossil Fuel Projects

The U.K. spends billions of dollars helping its companies win oil contracts abroad. A new report says that has to stop.

by Tim Marcin
Jun 10 2019, 1:29pm

Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire URN:41201937 (Press Association via AP Images)

If Britain is truly serious about fighting climate change, then the country has to stop allocating money for fossil fuel projects abroad, a new report urges.

The report from British lawmakers called for the country to cut off financing for all overseas fossil fuel projects by 2021. From about 2013 through 2018, the U.K. Export Finance (UKEF) agency, which helps British businesses win contracts abroad, used 96 percent of its energy support budget — some 2.5 billion pounds ($3.2 billion) — on fossil fuel projects in low- and middle-income countries.

"The government claims that the U.K. is a world leader on tackling climate change," said Mary Creagh, chair of the Environment Audit Committee, according to Reuters. "But behind the scenes, the U.K.'s export finance schemes are handing out billions of pounds of taxpayers money to develop fossil fuel projects in poorer countries."

UKEF said its decisions were “demand-led,” while the Environment Audit Committee said comparable agencies in countries like Sweden and Canada had done a better job limiting lending on fossil fuels, reported the Financial Times. The report from lawmakers was especially critical of UKEF’s support for the U.K. subsidiary of the Turkish group Enka, which had no British presence but had promised to open an office to meet requirements for UKEF’s support.

“The U.K. government fully recognizes the importance of tackling climate change and the need for a mix of energy sources and technologies as the world transitions to a low-carbon economy," a UKEF representative said, according to Reuters.

The report from lawmakers comes as Britain debates setting an ambitious climate goal: net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Achieving that goal would require drastic steps like phasing out gas and diesel vehicles by 2035, planting 30,000 hectares of trees each year, and cutting beef, dairy and lamb consumption by 20 percent.

The debate over net zero has taken a familiar shape. Chancellor Philip Hammond has warned that making it happen would be too costly, saying the price tag would be 1 trillion pounds. Others have said he’s missing the point.

“We are facing a climate emergency and Philip Hammond clearly doesn't get it,” said John McDonnell, the Labour Party’s shadow chancellor, according to the BBC. "The Tory party is way overdue in adopting a target already put forward by Labour, and now the chancellor is creating obstacles to prevent the action we desperately need to take."

Cover: File photo dated 04/10/18 of shadow chancellor John McDonnell, Boris Johnson has called on the shadow chancellor to withdraw his description of wartime prime minister Sir Winston Churchill as a "villain".