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Climate Justice

Oral Answers to Questions — International Development – in the House of Commons on 2nd October 2019.

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Photo of Zac Goldsmith Zac Goldsmith The Minister of State, Department for International Development, The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Climate change and biodiversity were top priorities for the Government at the recent UN General Assembly. The UK played a leading role, with the Prime Minister announcing a doubling of our international climate finance to £11.6 billion and a major focus on backing nature-based solutions to climate change.

Photo of Angela Crawley Angela Crawley Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Disabilities), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Pensions), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Youth affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Children and Families), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Equalities)

The International Development Committee has specifically recommended that the UK Government should adopt the concept of climate justice to guide their climate spending, but this Government seem scared to even utter the words: not a single International Development Minister has ever said the words “climate justice” in this Chamber. Why are this Government so intent on ignoring this recommendation?

Photo of Zac Goldsmith Zac Goldsmith The Minister of State, Department for International Development, The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Given what we know about the science in relation to climate change and what we know about what is happening to biodiversity, habitat and species loss, it is absolutely right that this Government’s focus should be on tackling and preventing climate change, both through technology and by doing everything we can to protect and restore the natural world. If we do not do that, no amount of money from this or any other aid Department will properly compensate poorer countries for the devastation that will follow.

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Devolved Government Relations), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment and Rural Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales)

I am afraid that the Minister failed entirely to answer my hon. Friend’s question. Will he tell the House when he will follow Scotland’s lead and the recommendation of the International Development Committee and explicitly adopt the concept of climate justice to help to guide climate mitigation spending?

Photo of Zac Goldsmith Zac Goldsmith The Minister of State, Department for International Development, The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I thank the hon. Lady for her question, but I do not agree that I did not answer the previous one. We provide £5.8 billion for climate finance at the moment, and that will double to at least £11.6 billion. The whole basis of that programme is, in a sense, climate justice. It is about helping developing countries to prepare for climate change, to adapt to the inevitable changes and to fight the causes of climate change to minimise the impact.

Photo of Pauline Latham Pauline Latham Conservative, Mid Derbyshire

By 2030, the destruction of the world’s important habitats and the threat of climate change could force more than 100 million people into poverty. Does my hon. Friend agree that urgent action is needed to tackle deforestation throughout the world?

Photo of Zac Goldsmith Zac Goldsmith The Minister of State, Department for International Development, The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I commend my hon. Friend for all her work on this issue. She is absolutely right, and that is why, when the Prime Minister spoke at the UN, he emphasised the importance of investing in nature as a means of tackling climate change. She mentions forests, and they are an obvious example. About 1 billion people depend on forests for their survival, and protecting and restoring forests alleviates poverty, tackles climate change and helps to reverse the biodiversity loss that we have seen over recent years.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

First, may I welcome my hon. Friend to his well-deserved place at the Dispatch Box? The environmental world rejoices that he is there, and I know he will do an outstandingly good job. Does he agree that it is a perfectly legitimate use of aid funds to spend money on climate change reduction and climate change battling as well as on the mitigation of the worst effects of climate change? That helps in a global sense, and it also helps to mitigate the worst effects for the poorest people in the world.

Photo of Zac Goldsmith Zac Goldsmith The Minister of State, Department for International Development, The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I thank my hon. Friend for his kind words. He is exactly right to say that we will have no hope at all of tackling poverty globally if we do not take a bigger interest in preventing climate change and the annihilation of the natural world that we have seen in recent decades. The people on the frontline in relation to nature destruction are the world’s poorest people. They are the people who depend most directly on the natural world, so he is absolutely right.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Labour, Bristol East

I welcome the Minister to his post. I am sure he will agree that the food and farming system has a major impact on climate change in developing countries, from deforestation to water use and mountains of food waste, but that is not really talked about in DFID terms except for some small livestock programmes. Can he assure me that it will be at the top of his agenda as a Minister in this Department?

Photo of Zac Goldsmith Zac Goldsmith The Minister of State, Department for International Development, The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

As we heard from the Secretary of State in his first answer, we have committed serious sums of money to enabling smallholders around the world to adapt to climate change. We have also launched an initiative at the UN called the Just Rural Transition, which is about shifting the way subsidies are spent around the world on land use, away from unsustainable use towards sustainable use, just as we are doing in this country. The OECD tells us that the 50 top food-producing nations spend £700 billion a year subsidising land use, on the whole very badly. If we can shift even a fraction of that, it will have a much bigger impact than all the world’s aid departments put together.