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Government urged to boost support for renewables

Government urged to boost support for renewables

Government urged to boost support for renewables

The UK government has been urged to channel its resources to ensure that fossil fuels are not being prioritised over renewable energy sources.

According to research conducted by the Overseas Development Institute for aid agency Cafod, the government has spent more than twice as much on building coal-fired power plants and other fossil fuel projects in developing countries as it has on sustainable energy.

The report showed that over £5 billion of public money has been made available to fund energy initiatives in developing nations and nearly half (43 per cent) of this has supported fossil fuels, which have an adverse impact on the environment.

A large proportion of the funding was channelled through export finance, the aim of which is to help British companies trade overseas.

Almost all export finance support for energy in developing economies went to fossil fuels and four of the top five overseas projects by value involved these energy sources.

Only 8.5 per cent of the UK's spending in these countries has concentrated on boosting access to "modern energy", according to the research.

Cafod said the government must show "consistent leadership" by moving away from fossil fuels to a future based on "sustainable, reliable and affordable energy for everyone, including the poorest".

The aid agency warned that continuing to focus on finite fuels such as coal, oil and gas risks undermining the positive steps taken by the Department for International Development and the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

These departments recently announced funding for climate action for another five years, delivering £5.8 billion from the UK's aid budget.

Neil Thorns, director of advocacy at Cafod, said continuing to back the development of fossil fuels "just doesn't make sense" given the country's targets to tackle climate change and poverty.

"In particular, export finance seems like the elephant in the room," he added. "What we need now is consistency across government, so all departments are working towards the same goals.

"Burning polluting fossil fuels is the main cause of climate change, whereas renewables offer the best chance of giving poor people worldwide reliable and affordable energy, which is crucial for tackling poverty. Putting all our efforts into supporting poorer countries to get sustainable energy now will save them from higher costs in the future."

Supporters of Cafod will be taking action on the issue this week by launching a petition to ask Amber Rudd, the energy secretary, to serve as a "cross-government champion for the sustainable energy shift".

The UK government has also come under fire for recent cutbacks reducing support for renewable energy at home.

Jacqueline McGlade, chief scientist in the United Nations' environment programme and former head of the European Environment Agency, told the BBC that Britain has been going against international trends by withdrawing subsidies for renewables and offering tax breaks for fossil fuels.

 

Posted by Julie Tucker

Image courtesy of Thinkstock