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Aid body accuses prime minister of ‘smoke and mirrors’ over climate pledge

02 Nov 2021 News

Boris Johnson

Flickr: Financial Times

An organisation representing aid charities has accused the prime minister of “the worst kind of smoke and mirrors” over his climate crisis funding promises.

Boris Johnson announced yesterday that the government was committing £1bn to climate finance solutions.

However, the Climate Action Network UK (CAN-UK), whose members include the World Wildlife Fund and Save the Children International, said he was “recycling” existing aid spending rather than providing any new resources.

The move would reduce the funding available to other aid priorities, CAN-UK warned.

Government response ‘falls far short’

Johnson told world leaders gathered in Glasgow for the COP26 conference that the world was heading for “catastrophe” unless business and governments found a way to bring down global carbon emissions and halt rising temperatures around the globe.

As part of this effort, the prime minister said that his government would increase climate finance by £1bn from 2025, using money from the UK aid budget.

Cat Pettengell, the interim director of Climate Action Network UK, described the announcement as “the worst kind of smoke and mirrors, just so that the prime minister can suggest he is making progress on climate finance”.

She said that it “falls far short of what is needed for a crisis”.

Step up

Pettengell continued: “UK aid has been drastically cut this year, including climate change adaptation programmes, yet rather than providing the new and additional finance promised, the prime minister is recycling aid commitments as climate finance.

“Communities that are suffering the worst impacts of climate change are once again being asked to shoulder the burden - taking money away from other vital aid priorities like health, education, and humanitarian response.

“As host of this World Leaders Summit, the prime minister needs to lead by example by delivering genuinely new funding, if really he wants other countries to step up to the scale of the challenge we all face.” 


The government’s aid budget was cut by around £2bn earlier this year, when spending dropped from 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) to 0.5%.

Charity development experts called the cut “devastating”.

In October’s budget, chancellor Rishi Sunak committed to restore spending at 0.7% GNI by 2024-25, provided the economy had recovered adequately after the impact of Covid-19. Aid charities said that cuts will have caused “untold damage” by the time they are reversed.

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