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My Lords, it is an honour for me to introduce this debate today, originally tabled in the name of my noble friend Lord McInnes, who sadly cannot be here.
My Twitter bio includes:
“Hates waste of all kinds”,
and for me the topic we are discussing very much falls into the waste category. As an original founder of the Conservative Friends of International Development, I am proud of the work it does and, in particular, of the 600-plus volunteers who have participated in social action projects over the past 11 years in Rwanda, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and most recently last month in Bangladesh. These are all countries where the impact of climate change degradation of the environment is visibly changing people’s lives. The projects—in Bangladesh this year much of the work was focused on plastic pollution—are examples where individuals working at a local level can help those communities and contribute towards the SDGs.
Of course education is key, but so is placing a higher value on natural resources and biodiversity, making it worth more to preserve them than to destroy. This is not always an easy case to make to families living in poverty, where day-to-day survival needs trump long-term environmental impact. I am sure my noble friend agrees that volunteering and participation in projects of these kinds helps us to understand a bit more about the complex issues around the SDGs, as those we try to support gain from shared time and experience.
The situation for our planet is deeply concerning. Public concern is rising, and I welcome that, as I do increased government commitment. Thank heavens for Sir David Attenborough and the brilliant “Blue Planet” and “Our Planet” series, which have inspired and motivated so many. The reaction to the recent forest fires, climate strikes and, of course, Extinction Rebellion are part of that.
Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history and the rate of species extinctions is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world. Three-quarters of the land-based environment and about two-thirds of the marine environment have been significantly altered by human actions, and we have all been slow to wake up to the implications. The most comprehensive assessment yet of the state of nature around the world was published last year, confirming that 1 million species are on the brink of extinction. Scientists have warned that even a 1.5-degree rise in temperatures would be devastating for humanity, ecosystems and the natural world as a whole. However, without significant action and intervention we are heading towards an unsustainable 3-degree rise.
It is the poorest in the world who will feel these consequences first. The European Commission report Life, Lives, Livelihoods found that 70% of the world’s poor live in rural areas and depend directly on biological diversity for their livelihoods. So the problem is not going away—it is accelerating.
UNEP’s International Resource Panel’s 2017 report estimated that material resource use—biomass, fossil fuels and non-metallic minerals—was expected to reach 90 billion tonnes. That is three times that used in 1970, and may more than double again between 2015 and 2050. Alongside the increase in material resources, global energy consumption is expected to rise by as much as 63% by 2040, much of which is attributed to expected consumption in countries that currently depend on fossil energy sources.
Growing demand for land, unsustainable use of natural resources, population growth and climate change are driving rapid deforestation and degradation of land. Deforestation and land-use change account for around 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This imperils natural systems which sustain life and underpin economic activity. Something must be done—quite a lot of somethings, in fact.
The environment should be at the heart of international development policy. Environmental protection and poverty alleviation are two sides of the same coin. We cannot have sustainable economic development if we fail to properly care for our finite natural resources or if we destroy the fragile ecosystems upon which human life and well-being depends.
We cannot hope to preserve our iconic species, our pristine natural habitats or those other resources if people living in those countries are destitute and lack good jobs. Without rapid, inclusive and climate-informed development, more than 100 million people are at risk of being pushed into poverty by 2030 as a direct result of climate change, particularly through changes in their water, agriculture and energy. Building climate resilience will help individuals, households, communities, countries and systems better to prepare themselves for the potential impacts of these changes.
By using our international development spending well, we can help to tackle poverty and natural environment. Just two weeks ago, I attended a dinner here with experts in this field, and I shall share a case study we heard to illustrate this point. In Zimbabwe, unemployment is rocketing, especially among young people. Tourism is down by more than 60% from 2008 levels, and the country is in the grip of a drought, with people and animals competing for precious, limited water supplies and failing crops leading to major food insecurity. This rising poverty is leading to an increase in deforestation and poaching as people plunder their natural resources just to make it through the drought.
On the face of it, National Park Rescue exists to protect a national park and the animals that live in it, but to do this it has become the largest local employer. It has established a functioning micro-economy between the park and the communities that surround it, prosecuted and imprisoned career criminals, and increased tourism to the area, all of which helps the local people appreciate that the park is an asset to be protected. It estimates that we have only 10 years before elephants, rhinos and lions will become extinct, so there will be no second chances if we get this wrong. It has shown how you can help to alleviate poverty by protecting the environment or, to put it the other way round, how you can help to protect the environment by alleviating poverty.
Our Government have recently made a number of important commitments in this area, which I very much welcome. The announcement made by the Prime Minister at the UN General Assembly last month to double the UK’s international climate finance spend, to help developing countries turn the tide against climate change and species loss, was particularly welcome. This means an investment of at least £11.6 billion over the next five years. Can the Minister say more about how this fund will be managed and what its priorities will be? A number of different government departments are involved in this work, and we know how difficult that can be. Can she explain how the work will be co-ordinated between them?
On biodiversity, the Prime Minister also announced at UNGA a new £220 million fund to save endangered animals such as the black rhino, the African elephant, the snow leopard and the Sumatran tiger from extinction. He rightly said:
“It is a privilege to share our planet with such majestic beasts as the African elephant, the black rhino and the beautiful pangolin. We cannot just sit back and watch as priceless endangered species are wiped off the face of the earth by our own carelessness and criminality”.
What are the Government doing to tackle the illegal wildlife trade, a destructive criminal industry worth £17 billion annually that is often associated with other illegal activities such as smuggling, human trafficking and drugs?
Before these announcements, UK ODA spending on nature-related development projects was relatively small compared to that of countries such as Germany and the US, each of which spend around $600 million to $700 million a year. As a country with an unrivalled love of wildlife and nature, it is welcome that we have begun to show greater leadership internationally. Another area in which the UK should show international leadership is to encourage investments in nature-based solutions. Currently only around 2.5% of the money invested to tackle climate change goes to nature-based solutions. Can the Minster give me an assurance that the Government will increase their focus on such solutions?
Half the world’s rainforest has been destroyed in the past 40 years, and rainforest continues to be lost at a faster rate than ever. It drives me completely nuts that these ancient, irreplaceable forests are cut down to grow soy, not for local indigenous people but to feed our pigs, which could be fed on food waste. However, that is a debate for another day.
I declare an interest as a trustee of Cool Earth, a non-profit organisation working alongside rainforest communities to halt deforestation and its impact on climate change. Local people stand to lose the most from deforestation, and have the most to gain from its protection. As such, they are the forest’s best possible custodians. Cool Earth partnerships are community-owned and community-led—an approach that research has continually shown to be the most effective way to keep rainforest standing. Protecting rainforest is one of the most effective actions that we can take to tackle climate breakdown. What are the Government doing to support them?
More than 1 billion people depend on fish as their main source of protein, and about 200 million depend on fishing for their livelihoods. However, our oceans are suffering. We are told that by 2050 they will contain more plastic than fish, measured by weight. Our oceans are being overfished. Fisheries that were once abundant have either collapsed entirely or are on the verge of collapse. Our land-based practices are resulting in acidification of our seas, and plastics and microplastics are building up and making their way back into our food systems.
Closer to home, noble Lords may have seen the story over the weekend of a malnourished baby sperm whale washed up on a beach in Wales, with blue plastic sheeting and other debris in its stomach. For years I have tried to do my bit while on holiday by picking up plastic on beaches, but I am aware that it is literally a drop in the ocean. The story how of my husband’s photograph surrounded by this plastic ended up in the Sun is for another day, I think. What work is being done by the Government in this area?
Finally, I would like to ask my noble friend about the entirety of DfID’s spending. Under ODA rules, it must be demonstrated how spending alleviates poverty and contributes to economic development. Does she agree that we should create a new “do no environmental harm” rule for ODA spending so that it does not undermine UK objectives on international biodiversity, sustainable resource use and climate change? This is not an optional add-on; it is a priority. I am delighted that so many experts in the field have signed up to speak today. I look forward to hearing from them all and learning more.
My Lords, I am very glad to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin. She is of course no newcomer to this subject—she has shown a consistent commitment to and interest in it, with a determination to see progress, and I commend her for that. She will forgive me if I say that I wish she were in the driving seat of the Conservative Party and that I had the same feeling about the Conservative Party as a whole.
It is certainly true that at the UN General Assembly in 2019 the Prime Minister undertook to double the UK’s spend on international climate finance. On the other hand, a little earlier in the year the House of Commons International Development Committee report, while acknowledging UK leadership in advancing climate change and sustainable development agendas, said that,
“there does not appear to be an active strategy underpinning the Government’s international Climate Finance spending”.
It is terribly important that we see evidence of that strategy, and a general election is a very good time to hear more about it.
The UN climate change conference in Glasgow will be coming up in 2020. Whichever Government are in power, it will be very sad if the Prime Minister’s statements are not underpinned by a really effective strategy to combat climate change, and that strategy has to encompass all departments and be central to all their work. There must be an inner conviction that this is an overwhelming challenge for humanity—a challenge that threatens humanity in the long run if not in the short term. For that reason, effective co-ordination of government policy is needed across all aspects. There is no evidence of this at the moment. Even today, we read that the Government have approved a new coal mine—the noble Baroness looks surprised but it is true —for coking coal in Cumbria. It is difficult to understand how that can be reconciled with an overriding commitment and strategy.
I should say that my interests are as in the register; indeed, my work in this sphere goes back very many years and I had the privilege for a while of being Overseas Development Minister.
If we are to be effective in combating climate change, trade deals are crucial. How are we ensuring that the necessary measures and commitments are written into trade deals to make sure that we are all on course? Multilateralism is crucial. We cannot possibly deal effectively with the issues of climate change on the basis of insular nationality. We have to recognise that if any sphere demands international co-operation it is this one. I would like the Government to convince me how they intend to make good the loss of co-operation which will follow Brexit. How will we get effective measures in place to enable the international community to work together in furthering the objectives?
The World Bank has given us a lead, having established that it has dual goals. It wants to reduce poverty, but also to promote greater equality, which it sees as essential to achieving the first goal. I was glad that the noble Baroness made the point in her very interesting speech that combating poverty is vital to the cause of effective policy on climate change. Perhaps this will ring true in all that the Government say during the next few weeks—that they are determined to eliminate poverty and see this as essential to the survival of humanity. I would love to hear that but, unfortunately, I am not confident that it will happen.
The World Bank has established that, on current economic growth predictions, some 6.5% of the global population will still be living in extreme poverty by 2030. We need to see this as a grave challenge. The pace of global poverty reduction has halved between 2013 and 2015. Sub-Saharan Africa saw the number of people living in extreme poverty increase from 278 million in 1990 to 413 million in 2015. Meanwhile, the wealth of the world’s 1,900 billionaires increased by $2.5 billion each day.
It is also worth facing the challenge that the poorest half of the global population is estimated to be responsible for approximately 10% of global emissions, while the richest 10% is responsible for 50%. Against that challenge, it is understandable that the World Bank could empathise with not just a fight against poverty but the cause of promoting greater stability.
Debates about development are so often dominated by talk of GDP. It has been a sort of totem pole which we are expected to worship. Surely it is becoming increasingly recognised that matters including wealth distribution, quality of life, poverty, climate change, sustainability, health and gender all come together in what we are trying to do.
Against that background, I hope the House will forgive me if I make what might seem to be a rather partisan point in the run-up to an election. It happens to be a deeply genuine conviction on my part. I do not begin to understand how an overriding commitment to the market as the solution to all our problems is viable. How can we welcome the prospect of deregulated markets? The challenge is to have intelligent, sane, rational regulations in place which face up to these interrelated realities and produce coherent and effective results.
Alongside this is the need for tax reforms. We need to put a great deal of work into this. I am not suggesting that the Government have not done a bit, but we need to do a great deal more. We also have to face up to the issue of the race to the bottom on corporate tax. Social justice and a fairer society must become part of the culture of corporate society itself. It is not just a matter of blowing your whistle and calling them to heel, but of generating a realisation that there is an unrivalled responsibility to promote a fairer society and more even distribution of wealth.
The approach that I am advocating for the Government will take courage and leadership. Populism will have no place in a genuine fight. When Churchill led us into the Second World War—thanks to the support of the Labour Party, which came to insist on his premiership—he did not indulge in populism. He used all his powers of rhetoric and his enthusiasm to inspire the nation to what should happen. It is a very sad reflection on our democratic system that, as we go into a general election, that type of leadership, while at a premium, is conspicuous by its absence.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, for introducing this debate and giving us the opportunity to address an issue relevant to the general election, as has been said, but much more so to the very pressing, urgent case of the future of our planet. The House will know of my long-standing interest in international development, both as chair of the International Development Committee in the House of Commons for 10 years and through my continuing connections with the sector, which are noted in the register of interests.
Many of us have been campaigning on climate change for many years. The Liberal Democrats are particularly proud of our record during the coalition Government and, frankly, disappointed that much of what we achieved in that coalition has been set back and dismantled by the Conservatives since. However, as has been mentioned, the advent of Extinction Rebellion, Greta Thunberg and the pupil strikes has forced the issue right up the international agenda. I am not sure how Greta Thunberg will find a zero-carbon way to Madrid, but I hope she succeeds. It is absolutely right that we should focus on how climate change is applied right across our international development agenda, because the challenges are immense. However, I have a few cautions in that connection.
First, I acknowledge that climate change features quite directly in government policy, both in the general programmes, and through international climate finance and our support for international climate funds. That is of course welcome, but as has been said by the IDC, there is concern about a lack of coherent strategy and effective cross-departmental co-ordination, which has been weakened under the Government. The IDC asked the Government to revisit this but, sadly, I saw from their reply that they declined to do so.
Another point is that real concern has been expressed about the danger of relabelling, which is simply redefining aid spending that was going to happen anyway and calling it climate change targeted. That is simply unacceptable. Bond has suggested that direct spending from the aid budget should be limited to 10% of the total budget. Others have said that, because this is a new global crisis that was not relevant and taken on board when we set our development objectives, we have to find new money for a new crisis, not raid the existing budget, which is focused on poverty.
I have long been concerned that the increasing demand for humanitarian aid, much of which now goes to middle-income countries, has squeezed the budget for spending on pro-poor development, by which I mean health, education, infrastructure, capacity-building—those kinds of things. Those budgets have been squeezed because of the need for humanitarian support. I am not decrying that support, but it none the less has had that effect. If we add climate change to it, it is obvious that the budget in these areas will come under even more pressure.
The reality is that both the developed and the developing world must completely reshape their economic model within a generation if civilisation on this—our only—planet is to survive. It is a fundamental, radical change on a scale never previously envisaged. As we engage in providing assistance to poor, developing nations, we surely have to be mindful of how we ensure that we reduce the problem as we do so, and do not add to it.
DfID has committed to targeting 50% of the climate change spending that comes from the aid budget to mitigation in accordance with the United Nations objective, but clearly—I give credit to the Government for acknowledging this—if we are looking at the times ahead, we have to consider mitigation alongside prevention. In that context, it has to be holistic. I contest that, if we are to meet this challenge, we have to unlock new money if development funding is not to be swallowed up by climate change. In fact, I have heard some sources within government suggesting that we should re-designate the entire development budget as a climate change budget. I would wholly resist any such suggestion. It would be a criminal neglect of the world’s poor if that happened.
We have to unlock new money and find ways of securing many more resources than have been put into the system. The UK is justly proud of our sustained commitment to delivering 0.7%. I give credit to my former colleague, Michael Moore, for introducing the legislation to put it in law. That is a piece of honour for the UK which I hope we will all stand by, but there is little scope to increase total aid flows above matching our commitment, unless we can tap new sources of money. I suggest that they must come from one source or another in the private sector. One vehicle being developed is the insurance industry. Not only can it produce models for insurance even for the vulnerable poor, possibly in co-operation with donors or Governments, but it can also offer expertise to people on how they can mitigate and adapt to climate change; it is in its interest to do so to reduce its own risk exposure.
It is in the register of interests that I am chair of a new organisation, Water Unite. Our aim is to apply a 1% levy on the sales of bottled water, and use the proceeds to invest in clean water, sanitation and plastic reuse and recycling in developing countries. If we could sign up enough of the world’s retailers and commercial catering companies, we could invest tens—even hundreds—of millions of pounds, in innovative projects to provide sustainable clean water, good sanitation and a reduction of plastic waste, without any burden on the taxpayer or the aid budget. To date, the Co-op is supporting us, along with Elior, a French-based catering company, and we are in active discussions with other key players. This is innovative in how we raise the money and on the scale of what we can invest to achieve sustainable improvements in infrastructure. The Minister and I have had this conversation, but if at some time the Government, with no contribution other than encouragement, could help more retailers to join us, we could do so much more.
I shall say something about fossil fuels, which I know something about. We know that the world is heavily dependent on fossil fuels; indeed, the use of fossil fuels is still growing. How are we to deal with fossil fuels during the transition and in our development policy? The World Bank has said that it will stop funding fossil fuel projects, other than in exceptional circumstances. The IDC has asked DfID to do the same. It declined, although it said that it will not fund coal. I do not disagree with the reasoning that DfID has put forward—it just shows the difficulties of addressing these issues—but for many developing countries, their natural resources are the foundation of their economy. We know that quite often it distorts that economy, and does not necessarily deliver a fair distribution of wealth, but without them their economic alternatives are limited.
Take a country such as Nigeria: it needs to know how a net zero carbon world would shape its future, which is currently highly dependent on oil. Guyana has just made the world’s biggest oil discovery in decades. It will want to feed the global transition with its resources. Are we to ban it from doing so? These are difficult questions. In recent months, BP has come under attack, even in this House, for its funding of the arts in the UK, which people regard as somehow tainted. To me, this has come from what I would call the woke sector trying to make some sort of statement but not facing the reality: we depend on companies such as BP. Ultimately, they must be part of the solution.
Take our domestic situation. The UK oil and gas industry supplies 45% of our energy needs. Currently, it generates a £30 billion annual surplus on our domestic balance of payments and employs more than 270,000 people. That cannot be switched off today or tomorrow. We have to work out how. We drive fossil fuel cars, heat our homes with fossil fuels and use products requiring fossil fuels in one form or another. Even our electricity is not carbon-free.
Let us not demonise the fossil fuel industry but get it on board and try to make sure that, by challenging it, it is part of the solution. The industry has capital and technical expertise. We are going to need those fossil fuels in the transition. Remember that this is about net-zero carbon, which means that there will still be fossil fuels in the mix in 2050; it is just that they will be offset or stored. Let us not pretend that we can switch them off and close them all down tomorrow. I am afraid that people who want to show how committed they can be are a little overeager and not too realistic about how it can be done. We need to do it as fast as possible and we should focus on development funding in developing countries, so that they can bypass fossil fuel for their own economic resources by using renewable and sustainable resources. I absolutely agree that that is the right way for our development funding to proceed.
Having said that and made my other cautions, one other thing I am slightly surprised about is how little population is discussed in the context of development. One of the problems we have is the pressure of population on the world’s resources. I do not have a dramatic answer but if we could contain the growth of population or even have a managed reduction—I mean that in terms of natural reduction—that would ease the pressure, yet it never seems a significant part of the policy. People often say that Thomas Malthus’s doomsday forecasts were wrong but maybe they were just ahead of the time. In a sense, everything that climate change threatens—the pestilence and disease—is exactly like the problems that he said would ultimately threaten mankind. We should be realistic about the practicalities of this because we could be facing a Malthusian Armageddon if we cannot tackle these problems.
This is my final point. Canada’s carbon tax was an issue in its election, as people did not like it; Macron had to face the Gilets Jaunes over fuel taxes; the COP has been moved from Santiago to Madrid because of demonstrations against inequality, and so forth. It is absolutely clear that we are in a climate emergency. The question, to my mind, is about political will as well as technical expertise. If we hear from the Greens, I am sure they will have the answers but not necessarily ones that would be as politically acceptable as they like to think. Is 21st-century politics up to this task? That, to me, is the question and it is a hell of a challenge.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Bennachie. Unlike him, I cannot claim to be an expert in these matters but I am an ornithologist in my spare time. I care deeply about natural resources and the benefits of biodiversity, so I greatly welcome this debate. One does not have to travel very far to see and appreciate how much biodiversity matters, and how urgent the need is to preserve it. Although my main interest is in birds, it is no secret that they do not live in a world of their own. They depend on the environment around them for food and shelter, as I can see every day when I am in the hills of east Perthshire at Craighead. Especially, almost all of them depend on trees. Above us is a large forest which was planted about 40 years ago, almost all of it a monoculture of Sitka spruce. It provides shelter for roe and red deer, and foxes; little else seems to live there. But around our cottage the deciduous trees, some old and some new, are full of insects and bird life.
We have a mixture of residents and many visitors that come into our trees from the surrounding grazing land and elsewhere. We have brought new species on to our property by planting trees to increase our biodiversity, which we see when our local crossbills bring their young—with as-yet uncrossed bills—to nibble the buds of our ash trees in early springtime. At home in Edinburgh my wife, who organises these things, decided three years ago that we should stop cutting our grass every two weeks to keep it short and trim, and turn our lawn instead into a meadow. As a result, we now have rich insect life there too, as well as a variety of flowers that attract them. What she has done is part of a very welcome appreciation of the value of meadows up and down the country here in the UK.
What we do here is far from perfect but what a contrast it is to what is happening in far too many countries overseas. I have two images that stick in my mind and two points to raise with the Minister. One concerns Malaysia. A few years ago, I was taken by car from Kuala Lumpur to the international airport some 20 miles away. For much of the journey on either side were plantation upon plantation of palms, which had been planted for the production of palm oil. It was a depressing sight. They were laid out in vast, orderly, regimented rows stretching as far as the eye could see into the distance. I thought of what had been cleared away to make room for them and the huge loss of wildlife that must have resulted. It was the relentless industrial scale of what had been done that was so appalling. If there is a lesson here for all of us, it is that monoculture plantations cannot ever be a substitute for the mature, biodiverse forests that they replace. Protection of what remains of those forests around the world must be a priority.
The other image is from Malawi, one of the poorest countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Many of its people live in and around villages where they grow the crops they need to sustain themselves. The maize they produce needs to be cooked, and they need a source of heat to do this. For too many, that is provided by charcoal, which they obtain by cutting down trees. So the country is gradually being denuded of the trees that are needed to sustain wildlife. There is another problem too. Hillsides denuded of trees are being eroded, and the silt this produces is finding its way into Lake Malawi. As a result, the quality of the water in that huge lake is being diminished and this in turn means that fish, another important food source, are losing out too. The authorities are doing what they can to discourage this practice, but it is not easy to stop it in a poor country where other sources of heat are hard to find. This experience reminds us that trees are not just an important means of soaking up carbon from the atmosphere. They bring all the benefits of biodiversity, and they stabilise the ground on which they grow.
What can be done about this? There are obvious limits to what our Government can do to prevent the further loss of biodiversity in Malaysia in order to produce palm oil. But producers need markets, and they are vulnerable to international pressures. Our Government can surely add their voice to the many who are protesting at what has been going on there, and they can do more to discourage its use here for products that we use at home. I would be interested to hear from the Minister what is being done about this.
As for Malawi, where DfID has a significant and much-valued presence, as it has in the Sahel and elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, there is an urgent need to do what we can to assist the authorities there in combating the cutting down of trees for charcoal. There are at least two prongs to what this might involve. One is investment in alternative sources of energy, especially the provision of solar-generated, carbon-free electricity. One can see that in villages where lighting has now been provided, on a small scale, in halls and birthing centres which were formerly dark after sundown but now have light to enable activity to carry on afterwards. Wider use of carbon-free electricity would assist the effort to stop the cutting down of trees. The other prong is education. Just as the people who live there are now learning about the benefits of access to clean water, so it should be about the benefits of preserving the environment. Life in these villages is rooted in traditions which are hard to break down. But surely we can do something to help there, out of the budget that is available for overseas development. I wonder what the Minister can say about this too. I look forward to her winding up this debate.
My Lords, I too welcome this debate and the Prime Minister’s commitment to increased spending in this area. I also take note of, and agree with, the slight fear and concern of the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, that some of the money for this important work will be taken out of what ought to be spent on the relief of poverty and direct aid.
Three weeks ago I was in Israel, leading a pilgrimage looking at many of the sites mentioned in the Bible. One thing I came across that I had not seen there before but which was pointed out to me by various people was the fallow field—fields kept idle for a year to let the earth rest. I learned in geography lessons in my state county primary school around 1960 or 1961 that it was an important principle not only to rotate crops but to let the earth rest—in other words, not to squeeze everything out of it. I later discovered that this is part of the biblical teaching about the sabbath: not just that people and animals are to rest but that the earth also needs rest and recreation. That is why some farmers in Israel still practise that principle.
Fallow fields and crop rotation used to be the norm in this country, letting the earth rest and be refreshed. Some of that is coming back, despite the intensive farming we have learned in recent decades. Much of that farming has been very useful and important, helping to feed our country and other countries. I do not question scientific method or all the scientific resources we can find being brought to bear on farming. It is right and proper, but not if we lose the basic principle that the earth, like its inhabitants, needs time to rest and recover when it has been used. Otherwise it will be abused.
Caring for the earth is part of the Church’s mission. It is one of the five marks of mission enunciated and taught by the worldwide Anglican communion. This principle predates concerns about global warming, though it is part of addressing them. It is about our belief that we should be stewards of this planet: for God, for creation and for future generations. We are called to be gentle with the earth, kind to it in the same way that we are called to be kind and gentle with one another. Yes, we need to make the earth as productive as it can be to feed people and for various other reasons—that is fine; but productive while still being healthy and self-sustaining. It is a basic principle that lies behind much else that has been discussed today.
For my final point—I do not wish to speak at great length—I acknowledge the help of my right reverend friend the Bishop of Durham, who would like to have been here today but could not. He knows Rwanda very well. He told me of a north Rwandan village community project: collecting cow dung into an enclosed slurry pit to produce gas from which families can cook and light their homes in an area with no mains electricity. Their children can now study at night, in a country which has 12 hours of darkness every day. This is a small-scale project, which could be put at risk by some of our modern large-scale ideas about limiting the numbers of cattle as we try to care for the earth. Although large-scale cattle herds can undoubtedly be environmentally detrimental, in developing countries owning one cow can be an important way for a family to climb out of poverty: fertilisation for the soil, milk for the children, study for the teenagers. We have to hold this question of development and ecological futures alongside that of poverty.
I urge those working on our environmental investments, which I gladly commend and welcome, to recognise the contexts of poverty, support small-scale projects as well as larger ones and ensure that larger-scale projects do not exacerbate small-scale poverty.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Jenkin for introducing this debate, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Bennachie, said, covers a huge subject. It is an enormous challenge, not just to this country but to the whole world, and we have to get it right to preserve our grandchildren’s future.
I thank the Government and pay tribute to them for what they have done. They have enshrined in law the 0.7% of GNI and have stuck to it. We all know how much we have been lectured and harangued by the Liberal party as to how much European standards are better than British ones but on this occasion, the British standards are far better than the European ones. If the EU countries spent half what we spend, there would be an enormous increase in the financial aid that goes to developing countries. I hope that the Liberal party will tell its friends in Europe that they had better get their act together if they want to improve the planet.
I welcome in particular what the Government have recently done with regard to oceans. We discussed plastic in oceans in your Lordships’ House and I took part in that debate, but to sign the protocol for a 30% improvement in the oceans by 2030 and to become part of the global alliance shows the UK to be yet again at the forefront of these challenges. On climate change too, the doubling of the UK’s international climate finance is strongly to be welcomed. It gives the local people in affected countries the ability and the help they need to combat climate change and to reduce the causes of it.
My noble friend Lady Jenkin mentioned biodiversity. I will give one example of where UK help has been very effective in producing a success story. It is a small-scale project—the sort that the right reverend Prelate mentioned and which I am sure he would welcome. It was done by the South Georgia Heritage Trust, which spent a lot of time and effort getting rid of rodents that man had introduced to South Georgia with huge detrimental effect on nesting birds. In 2015, that project finished, and the report in 2018 showed what an enormous success it had been by eliminating rodents on South Georgia. The best applause your Lordships will ever get for a project is to hear the amount of song now sung by the South Georgia pipit, which you would not have heard 10 years ago. That is just the sort of project we should be doing round the world.
On aviation, it is interesting to note that in 2009, it was Labour Party policy under Gordon Brown to build a new runway at Heathrow—one runway. In contrast, in 2008, the Chinese decided to build a new airport at Daxing. It opened on
The topic of CFCs, which no Lord has mentioned yet, is an old friend of mine, as I was heavily involved in it when I was a Minister in the 1980s. It is disturbing that illegal production of CFCs, which has been tracked to China, equates to about 10% of UK CO2 emissions. That is just illegal production of one substance. This is an international problem, and we are just a very small cog in a very big wheel.
China is building or planning to build some 300 coal-fired power stations around the world from Vietnam to Turkey, and we all know what a dreadful polluter coal is. The China Electricity Council wants to cap coal power capacity by 2030. That is the good news, but the bad news is that the figure it has suggested for the cap allows it to build two large coal-fired power stations a month for the next 12 years. That alone will completely shatter the 1.5 degree aim for global warming and put in jeopardy the 2 degree target.
That is just one country, but China is not alone. India wants to increase its coal-fired power capacity by nearly one quarter in the next three years. Those challenges on the international scale far outweigh anything that we can do.
Russia welcomes global warming: it is very important for it. While the city of Irkutsk is collapsing as the permafrost melts and the methane bubbles to the surface, Tiksi has been given a new military facility as Russia pledges to spend a huge amount of money opening up the North Arctic route along its northern coast and developing its property in the Arctic. That could do more damage to the world’s climate and biodiversity than lots of other things.
My key recommendation to the Government is that this is not only a financial issue: they must use their soft power to maximum extent to bring the rest of the world on board. We recognise that our Government are a world leader and have set standards for others to follow, but they must, just as much as spending the money, bring others on board to take the world forward with their help.
My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin of Kennington, on her introduction today and generally for her work on waste and food. I echo her comments on the illegal wildlife trade.
Many noble Lords will be aware of a bird called the hoopoe. It has existed not only in its own right but in myth and legend for thousands of years. It appears in the Bible and earned its showy crest by being wiser than King Solomon: it had a part to play in his relationship with the Queen of Sheba. It appears in the Koran, and is particularly celebrated in the Conference of the Birds, which is an amazing poem in Persian literature: the hoopoe is the messenger of the birds and their leader as they go on a long journey. It is a messenger again today, because it is a migratory bird, and its increasing appearances in southern England talk to us of climate change. Today, I shall talk particularly about migratory birds and ask the Minister about habitat and COP 15.
Many of our best-known summer birds are migrants. There is the cuckoo, whose calls mark the start of spring. There are swallows—your Lordships will know the well-known phrase that one does not make a summer—flycatchers and all sorts of summer visitors. Then we move into autumn, when other species take over: fieldfares, waxwings and so on.
All those migrants have in common the need for safe passage during often very long migrations, feeding grounds on their long flights and the habitat for them when they reach their destination. Of course, there are threats from hunting. Some EU countries, such as Malta and Cyprus, are still not playing their part in this. Does the Minister know whether Cyprus has continued to improve since UK military bases there made a real effort to address the carnage from netting and shooting birds? In July, the EU Commission issued France and Spain with a notice that they are in breach of efforts to protect the turtle dove, which we virtually never hear in England now, from extinction. Far too much hunting is seen as tradition and tied in with patrimony.
However, the main threat to migrating birds is habitat loss: wetlands drained and turned into farmland, an expanding Sahara due to climate change and loss of food as powerful insecticides wipe out insects. Neonicotinoids may be banned in some countries but you can bet your bottom dollar that the manufacturers will be busy finding new markets for them.
The interplay of aid money, tackling climate change, restoring biodiversity and strengthening, not weakening, local communities is very sensitive. In October this year, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations made an agreement with the European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, which will lead into COP 15. In particular, it is increasing funding that will boost countries’ efforts to bring about sustainable changes in agricultural policies and practices, to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity and natural resources. The programme will address some of the most unsustainable practices in agriculture, such as the use of highly hazardous pesticides, and scale up ecosystem-based approaches that favour natural pest control and protect pollinators. As other noble Lords have said, it is extremely important that this is not an either/or approach.
The DfID 2015 strategy on resilience to climate change and environmental sustainability made almost no mention of biodiversity. Other strategies make almost no mention of poverty. If the money for the Government’s recent pledge to give £1.3 billion to climate and biodiversity comes out of the aid budget, that is a real example of this issue. It is all about climate change and biodiversity but, as my noble friend Lord Bruce of Bennachie said, there is an interplay in tackling food scarcity, poverty and climate change. It is not an either/or situation. That is the big lesson for COP 15.
I hope that the Government will look again at the agreement I mentioned between the FAO and the EU because it is a sound strategy and one that the UK would do well to build on. That is why I heard with incredulity the remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, about how we cannot learn lessons from the EU; he is entirely wrong.
Finally, I mention the environmental activists who are killed or imprisoned for defending habitats and challenging pollution. We often read about them in the newspapers, in places such as Brazil. This week, in a letter to me, Amnesty International highlighted the case of the activists who have challenged the lack of a clean-up and compensation for a chemical spill in Vietnam that wiped out 6,000 acres of coral reef, meaning that thousands of local fishermen lost their livelihoods. It especially highlights the case of Tran Thi Nga, a mother of two boys. She protested about the pollution and spoke up for fishing families. As a result, she is currently serving nine years in jail. That is the price for speaking out against pollution. Will the Minister undertake to press the Vietnamese Government to recognise that this is a totally inappropriate response to pollution and to release this brave woman?
My Lords, I want to talk about the importance of improved smallholder agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa. Africa has a current population of 1 billion, which is due to grow to 2 billion by 2050. That is not sustainable. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, and support his plea for an open debate on family planning, which is hard in Africa when your nearest clinic may be 40, 50 or 60 miles away and you do not even have a bicycle to get there.
Africa is also where 70% of the population depend for their livelihoods—even their lives—on agriculture, where 70% of farmers are women and where every woman farmer you meet who has learned to make money from her holding will spend it on educating her children. That is sustainable development. I have mentioned this story before in the House, but I once met an old lady in Kenya who had a four-acre smallholding and was employing five families on it. I asked her, “What did you do with the money after you learned to make a profit?” I knew what the answer was going to be, but she replied, “I educated my children”. I come to the important question: “What are your children doing now?” “Well, my son is an airline pilot and my daughter is teaching IT skills in India prior to coming home”. I thought to myself, “Yes”, and that result is from just four acres. It is the way forward for Africa.
The World Bank has said that money invested in agriculture in Africa takes three or four times the number of people out of poverty than money invested in other businesses. African agriculture needs investment and could bring huge rewards in terms of kick-starting a much bigger economy, but there are problems. The first is infrastructure in the form of better mobile connectivity for weather reports, market reports and prices, and even technical advice. You send a picture of a plant and a message will come back saying what is wrong with it along with what action you might need to take. Farmers need better roads for getting seed and fertiliser in and the harvested crop out. Better power is required to process crops locally in order to avoid the huge post-harvest losses prevalent in Africa. However, most countries have no national grid, so as has already been mentioned, village solar power for batteries is the obvious answer. That also helps kids to do their homework and people to engage in other nocturnal activities which at the moment cannot take place.
Another need is security of tenure on the land. Many farmers have only loose tenancies from a local chief whose ownership of the land is probably not even registered. It is a mess, but I am pleased to say that DfID is now doing a lot of good work in this area. Without security of tenure, it is difficult to invest. Why would you spend four years’ worth of your farming income on drilling a borehole when you could easily then lose your land? Indeed, why would you borrow money if only 40% interest rates are available? It makes no sense at all. Donors like DfID should guarantee loans to farmers at interest rates of less than 15%. Various UN pilot schemes have been run in this area which have worked well.
One of the things a farmer might want to spend money on is water, because that could quadruple the output of the farm. However, African rains come all at once, so mini reservoirs make sense. Africa is also full of aquifers which are hardly tapped at all. The West needs to help by spending money on analysing the quantity and quality of these aquifers to ensure that the water is used sustainably, unlike what is happening in India and China. Africa uses only around 2% of its annual rainfall, which is a tiny proportion. Parts of Asia use 40%-plus, while obviously in the Middle East the proportion is much higher than that. By far the most urgent need in this area is to help farmers borrow money in order to put in communal irrigation schemes. I am talking about helping them and not necessarily paying for the schemes because they deliver a good financial reward if farmers can get hold of the money.
That brings me to the greatest need for African agriculture, which is knowledge. We must invest in agricultural training colleges which have to be open to women. We must ensure that women farmers can get training on their farms, and we must encourage the private sector to assist in training. I cite as an example of the latter a visit I made a few years ago to a Diageo brewery in Addis Ababa which had started training farmers to grow the barley needed to make its beer to the spec it wanted. The brewery started with a few hundred farmers, but when I visited, it had 3,000 farmers and intended to expand that number to 15,000 to 20,000. Those farmers were making money and educating their children.
Now, of all the natural resources that need sustaining in Africa it is the soil. The Malabo Montpellier Panel has calculated that the economic loss from soil degradation in sub-Saharan Africa is worth $68 billion per annum—I repeat: per annum—affecting 180 million people. Women farmers need to know how to manage the soil, how to rotate crops and how to plant without losing moisture. Soils are a long-term business, but it is hard to think about future food when you are desperate for food today and you have no understanding about crop rotations or organic matter. There is no doubt in my mind that min-till—or, better, nil-till—is the answer. The moment you turn the soil and have brown earth, you can see the organic matter turning to dust. I have seen this; it just floats away in the lightest of breezes.
The other problem is that the soils get too hot, 30 degrees or more. One solution is to use the debris from the previous crop—the leaves and stems of maize, for instance—to cover and shade the soil. You open the debris in lines to plant the seed but leave it elsewhere in the field to cool the soil, conserve moisture and, eventually, provide organic matter when it breaks down.
In west Africa, I have come across an even better system: nitrogen-fixing trees. There are two varieties. The trees shade the soil at the same time as enriching it with nitrogen. You plant the seed just before it rains—it is vital to have that incredibly useful weather information on your phone—and then, when it does rain, these trees miraculously drop all their leaves, leaving the fields basking in open sunlight to kick-start the growth of the crop, before regrowing their leaves after a few months to give the welcome shade.
In conclusion—moving from field back to politics—first, we have to get all Governments to wake up and recognise the opportunities and problems here. All African Governments must fulfil their Maputo commitments to put 10% of their GDP into agriculture; of the 57 African states, I think only seven or eight currently do so. Sound, profitable agriculture can transform lives—I have seen it in reality. Secondly, we must put more money into training in agriculture and the basics of running a business, including soil management. Thirdly, we must incentivise a long-term approach by granting legal security of tenure. It can be done by tenancies as well as land registration, and I am pleased to say that DfID is already doing wonders here. Fourthly and lastly, we must help build the research capacity in Africa itself and the means of getting that knowledge to the farmers. There is a lot to be done, but the rewards are huge.
My Lords, this is indeed a vital and topical issue on which your Lordships’ House can sign off just before Dissolution, not least because the United Kingdom’s commitment to funding overseas development is appreciated throughout the world, especially in the less-developed world. In thanking my noble friend Lady Jenkin for opening the debate in such a comprehensive way, I say to her that I too hate waste of all kinds. Indeed, I was president of Waste Watch, the organisation that did so much to get local authorities going with local recycling schemes.
On a personal level, I was disappointed recently when President Piñera of Chile felt he had no alternative but to cancel Chile’s hosting of COP 25 because of unrest and violent demonstrations. I was due to attend the parliamentary meetings taking place alongside the government meetings. This is all very relevant since the United Kingdom is due to host COP 26 next year—in Glasgow, I understand. We have now heard that Madrid is the replacement venue for this meeting, and I hope my noble friend the Minister will be able to enlighten us as to whether there is any more up-to-date information on whether the agenda remains substantially the same, because a focus of these meetings was to be a climate-smart mining policy.
Mining—I do not mean coal mining; I will exclude that—is needed in order to realise a low or zero-carbon future. A World Bank analysis recently found that a low-carbon future is still very mineral intensive and that mining is essential to mitigating climate change, because key metals and minerals such as copper and lithium are a necessary part of clean technology and the digital age. The burden of extracting them will fall mostly on UK-listed mining companies, which are the world’s largest, with the London Metal Exchange dealing in something like 80% of world metals. It was hoped, therefore, that linking COP 25 and 26 would provide an exceptional opportunity over two years to turbocharge research and development in mining technologies and processes to dramatically reduce the environmental impact of mining—for example, the idea of waterless and tailings-damless mineral processing.
As a global commodities hub for key finished metals and value-added battery automated products such as cathodes, anodes, magnets and so on, the United Kingdom has an important role to play. It is essential to drive investment in mining of the United Kingdom’s own resources for value-added products using free ports and so on, and to develop and demonstrate the use of mining as a force for good in sustainably transforming impoverished nations which contain the vast proportion of the key metals. Developing capacity to enable the world mining sector to work better together is a goal we should welcome.
Reference has been made to Africa as a continent rich in resources. I point out, because of my great interest in Latin America, that Chile, Peru and Brazil are also world players. In fact, I have a note here saying that more gold and copper has been found in Ecuador in the last 10 years than anywhere else on earth, and the world’s largest mining companies are already jostling for position in that country.
There is a lot for us to do, but we cannot be seen to be doing it alone, or even trying to be doing it alone. We have to co-operate. Can my noble friend confirm, therefore, that a climate-smart approach to mining is still on the agenda?
Turning to biodiversity, we all know that the largest proportion of the UK’s biodiversity exists in the overseas territories. I therefore recently tabled a Question for Written Answer, to which I have not yet received a reply. I hope that my noble friend will be able to pre-empt that. My Question was to ask Her Majesty’s Government whether any of the funding for the Darwin Initiative, announced recently by the Prime Minister in New York at the United Nations, will replace the lost European Union funding for wildlife in the Falkland Islands and for other British wildlife in the overseas territories. I look forward to that reply from the Minister, because this move comes after assurances from the Government that EU-funded environmental projects in overseas territories that have already been committed to will be honoured. Crucially, the issue that now arises is that no concrete assurance has been made with regard to replacement funding for new projects following Brexit.
Another question relates to the Small Charities Challenge Fund. We all welcomed the information we were given last year, I think, by my noble friend Lord Bates about the fund tailoring to the needs of small, grass-roots British charities doing outstanding humanitarian and development work. I would be glad to hear how that is progressing.
I wish to refer also to a project in Colombia with which I am involved and which receives funding via the Newton Fund. The aim of BRIDGE Colombia and GROW Colombia is to advance research skills, partnerships and technological self-sufficiency. In doing so, it is bringing together many researchers and creating research exchange programmes.
I have been informed, via my noble friend Lord Bates, that the United Kingdom secured a significant change to the international aid rules in November last year for countries which experience natural disasters. This saw the lifting of restrictions to Britain’s aid support to countries affected by crises and natural disasters which impact on their economy. Can my noble friend say whether there has been much international take-up or co-operation for this?
Although I may not be a hoopoe, I am a Hooper, and I definitely have a migratory tendency. I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for raising that issue, and I look forward to my noble friend’s answers in due course.
My Lords, I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, for ensuring that we have this important debate today. I primarily want to address issues relating to biodiversity and DfID assistance in small countries, particularly Lesotho and the Gambia, but before I do so, I echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, about the state of agriculture in Africa in general. I particularly echo his view on low tilling and crop rotation, which are vital if you are trying to deal with countries in which agriculture is the base for the survival of their population. The two small countries I want to talk about—I declare my interests as shown in the register—are very much affected by agricultural and land degradation.
In the Gambia, experts estimate that half the land in the country is degraded owing to poor land management. Increased temperatures and drought have also occurred as the effects of climate change have an impact. In the 1950s and 1960s, some places in the Gambia would record 2,000 millilitres of rain. Now, if rainfall amounts to 800 millilitres, that is regarded as a good season. Deforestation has also contributed to reduced rainfall, allowing storms and flash floods to wash away the fertile soils, bringing gradual desertification as sands roll in and turn once rich farmland into uncultivated dunes.
Lesotho has also suffered from the effects of climate change. It is a mountainous country with—this is a challenge for noble Lords—the highest lowest point in the world. In the highlands, there is snowfall during the winter months. It suffers both drought and harsh rain storms. The substrata of the country are hard rock, and the vicious rainstorms sweep away the thin covering of cultivatable soil and create huge gullies in the lower parts of the country. Droughts have withered the country, parching the rivers and producing widespread crop failure.
One of the increasingly frequent severe droughts is happening now. This very day, a large portion of the population is receiving food aid. At least a quarter of the population need food aid just to survive. Unfortunately, this is now a frequent occurrence. In 2017, for example, I observed families with wheelbarrows walking many miles up mountains to UN feeding stations to collect sacks of maize just to keep their families alive—and they are doing that today. Poverty is rife and directly linked to the severe land degradation, poor crop husbandry methods and reliance on rain-fed farming.
Both countries are members of the Commonwealth, both have democratic structures and both are small in population. Lesotho has the third-highest incidence of HIV/AIDS in the world, and life expectancy, while rising now, is still way below that of most other sub-Saharan African countries.
As the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, suggested, there are solutions to the land degradation, which we can see in both countries. One of the simplest to explain is trees—not just any trees but the right sort of trees. The obvious problem is that wood is used for cooking and heating, and the issue is the need for cultural and economic change so that cutting down trees is seen as damaging family incomes. In Lesotho, the challenge is to plant and nurture fruit trees. The fruit provides nourishment while the tree roots hold back land degradation.
There are other micro ways in which families can grow the crops they need to survive. I should like to introduce noble Lords to Mrs Maleloko Fokotsale and her garden. It is not very photogenic. It looks like a jumble of rocks and dirt piled into a circle. However, this keyhole garden can feed a family of five for many months. It is about a metre high—roughly up to Mrs Fokotsale’s waist—and just wide enough so that she can reach over to the middle. In the centre is a compost hole in which waste and wastewater are placed, so that the nutrient-rich mix seeps through to the rest of the soil in the garden. It does not need much water, and any wastewater can be used.
There are many other solutions to these land degradation problems, but they require investment, skills, training and engagement. So where is DfID in all this? I am afraid it is virtually nowhere to be seen in either country, and for many in the support services it is a long-forgotten name from the past. Why is that? It is primarily because DfID’s needs-effectiveness index leads to support being provided for more populous countries. It has effectively hard-wired a systemic preference for larger countries. For example, the use of rates of poverty, rather than actual poverty numbers, skews the decision on where to spend towards those countries with larger populations. The largest focus for DfID assistance in Africa is in Nigeria and Ethiopia, closely followed by Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, which are numbers 1, 2, 6, 7 and 8 in population size in Africa. This has two effects. First, it excludes small countries with high development needs and, secondly, it implies that it is more effective to work in larger than smaller countries. Can the Minister say whether reconsideration of these effects has been considered recently by DfID when setting future strategies and budgets?
My second concern is about joined-up government thinking in where to place direct spend and how to do it. In recent months, the FCO has developed a governance programme for the National Assembly of the Gambia and has reopened its high commission in Lesotho. Both are small Commonwealth countries and these new developments are very welcome, but they cannot be seen as valuable new trade agreements in a post-Brexit world. They are a statement that this country and these interventions are dealing with some of the long-term issues facing those countries, which are mainly associated with poverty. If we are going to structure Foreign and Commonwealth Office activity in those countries, surely it would be better to match and work alongside it on both long-term and short-term needs, which are very important. Does the Minister agree that there is a need to bring together intangible and tangible support to build on the new developments that the UK Government are currently making and to establish a truly cross-departmental approach in countries such as the Gambia and Lesotho? DfID spend in Lesotho this year is £165,000, and that all goes on education. So there is an example of low spend, yet the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is investing hugely in the country, and we now need to make sure that that long-term and short-term aid and development process is brought together.
My third concern is that, where there is no in-country presence, DfID frequently channels its money through large multinational agencies. However, I would be grateful if the Minister could tell me whether it has also considered using the Governments in Scotland and Wales to assist with efforts in countries where DfID does not have a presence. These Governments have their own access to skills and development sources, and they already provide small-scale funding to enable NGOs in Scotland and Wales to build projects in the developing world. Have the Government considered working with these other UK Governments? In so doing, they would be able to capture existing well-developed NGO supporters and developers. At the same time, the UK Government could be reassured that, as they are Governments themselves, the rigorous monitoring, governance and oversight capability, as exercised by DfID, would be in place in those Governments.
In conclusion, I should like to take a more hopeful message to Mrs Fokotsale, and I look to the Minister’s reply on the three issues that I have raised—small country assistance, bringing tangible and intangible support together, and using devolved Governments to help—to do just that. Armed with those answers, I hope that Mrs Fokotsale and thousands more like her can look forward to a better future.
My Lords, I join many others in thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, for arranging this crucial debate. Noble Lords may not be surprised that, as a member of the Green Party, I am standing up to talk about natural resources and biodiversity, but it might be useful for them to know that I also have a background in the international development side of this debate. I spent more than four years in Thailand working on a number of UN reports, including on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and, in the late 1990s, on women’s health and child labour.
I shall begin by perhaps surprising the House by saying that I agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Bennachie, when he expressed concern that the amount of government aid going to pro-poor funding has gone down. However, where I disagree with him is that there is any conflict at all between action on the climate emergency and action on helping the poor. What we need is, in the jargon, a just transition that caters to the poor while also looking after the planet.
At the weekend I was speaking at a debate with a young campaigner from the 10:10 organisation and she used a very memorable phrase: “You don’t fix the problems that we have now with the system that created them”. The fact is that fossil-fuel societies have created a deeply unequal world in which many are suffering from the poverty and hunger that many noble Lords have referred to. Many will be familiar with the term “the resource curse”. Even in countries that have lots of resources—fossil fuels and other minerals—the poor have suffered and have not benefited from them. Therefore, the fact that we can now do without fossil fuels is, I believe, something to celebrate for the poor of the world. However, that is not the direction being taken by Britain’s international aid effort. The Environmental Audit Committee has focused on the fact that in the last five years UK Export Finance has put £2.5 billion into fossil fuel finance.
There is a term that is really important in this context—lock-in. By building the infrastructure, you lock in potential emissions for many years to come and, if you stop those emissions, you waste huge amounts of money and leave people trapped. I refer the Minister to a report in Nature Communications in January 2018 by Dr Chris Smith of the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds—I would be happy to provide her with a reference. It is a very important and, I believe, hopeful report because it stresses that if at the end of 2018 we had stopped investing in fossil fuel infrastructure all around the world, we could, using existing infrastructure, have just come in under 1.5 degrees centigrade of warming. Ending new fossil fuel infrastructure is crucial, so the UK should not be funding this.
I turn to my particular passion: food and agriculture. The UK’s efforts in this area include a programme called Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters, which says that it plans to use the techniques of climate-smart agriculture. I ask the Minister to reconsider and think very hard about this. The term “climate-smart agriculture” has no definitional meaning; there is no classification system for it as there is, for example, for the organic agriculture that I spoke about earlier. But most people who propound climate-smart agriculture would agree that, essentially, it means doing the kind of farming that we do now but much more efficiently. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, who referred to the importance of “no till” and “minimum till”. As the right reverend Prelate said earlier, we have trashed our own soils; our farming methods have done great damage. We have to make sure that we are not exporting these methods with our aid efforts.
Another programme supported by the UK aid effort with funding is an organisation called AgDevCo. I looked up the kind of projects that it supports. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, referred to palm oil plantations and the damage that they are doing. This organisation supports palm oil plantations and cashew nuts; it supports macadamia exports and avocado growers in Kenya; and it supports the Ugandan coffee sector. These are traditional export-oriented, high-input, deeply damaging forms of agriculture. I applaud the keyhole gardens referred to by the noble Lord, Lord German. These are the kinds of permaculture- based, agro-ecological approaches that must be the future, providing food security for the poor, and for us all, on a stable planet.
We have been talking in the debate about biodiversity. Most speakers have referred to the idea of natural, wild biodiversity. I want briefly to mention the importance of crop biodiversity, because 20% of human calories come from one crop: wheat. In food security terms, that is incredibly dangerous. One noble Lord referred to giant, industrial-scale monoculture—huge fields of identical crops, which cannot be the biological future for this planet. Crop biodiversity is also about human health. I refer to another study, from Tanzania, in Ecological Economics, which looked at how crop biodiversity fed into the health of children. The study found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that children who had a more diverse diet were healthier. This effect was most evident in subsistence-farming households and for children in households with limited market access. This is the kind of agriculture that we need to support.
I will briefly address—
I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. I am very interested in this part of her speech, which, I must say, reminds me a great deal of my own work in Africa. Does she agree that one period of history at which we should look very critically is when top-down cash crops were promoted despite the fact that local communities had self-sustaining systems of their own; we now realise that such systems are exactly what we need. There are great lessons to be learned from this. Perhaps she would also agree that it is not a matter of lecturing people in the third world on what they must do, but of setting examples ourselves.
I entirely agree with everything the noble Lord just said. I think your Lordships’ are likely to hear me refer often to the importance of strong local economies in which a large amount of the food on the plate comes from not very far away. That is true around the world. We are talking about the aid effort here. What we want to do is support people and help them develop and work on their local systems.
The noble Lords, Lord Bruce and Lord Cameron, mentioned the issue of population. I often hear the question, “Why are we not talking about population?” The IPCC says we have 11 years to turn our planet around. The human ecological footprint is a product of the equation of the number of people on the planet multiplied by their consumption levels. The number of people on the planet will not change very significantly in the next 12 years. What we have to change is the consumption levels, particularly those of societies such as Britain: we are using our share of the resources of three planets every year, yet we have only one. However, if we were to talk about international aid going to women’s rights to control their own bodies and have access to contraceptives, abortion, economic opportunities and education, perhaps we could find some points of agreement.
I am aware that I have taken quite a bit of time. The noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, made a really important point that I want to come back to, because I think it should be highlighted and be the takeaway message from this debate. She asked the Minister whether we should first do no harm with our aid. That is a very important question and it should surely be answered only in the affirmative. We cannot afford the harm of funding new fossil fuel infrastructure, or of funding, supporting or encouraging types of agriculture that trash the planet and fail to provide food security. We cannot afford to support the growing of crops to be fed to animals in industrial agriculture. That is food waste, and I think this House would generally agree that food waste is a bad thing. The simple question I would like to leave with the Minister is this: whatever role she may play after the election, could she work on ensuring we have an aid policy that first does no harm?
My Lords, we should be grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, for the chance to address what is surely an ethical imperative: responsible stewardship of the entire natural world. Biodiversity is essential for our health, well-being and prosperity.
Energy from the sun flows through intricately structured ecosystems to give us our food, other natural resources, forests and other habitats. However, there is a spiritual value too. In the words of the great ecologist, EO Wilson:
“At the heart of the environmentalist worldview is the conviction that human physical and spiritual health depends … on the planet … Natural ecosystems—forests, coral reefs, marine blue waters—maintain the world … as we would wish it to be maintained”.
Our body and our mind evolved to live in this particular planetary environment and no other. These sentiments resonate with all conservationists. Of course, here in the UK there is widespread anxiety about the effects on wildlife of urbanisation, pesticides and so forth. There is understandably more focus on birds and cuddly mammals than on worms, insects and microfauna.
The UK is only 1% of the world’s population and an even smaller fraction of its land mass. None the less, we can have disproportionate leverage in promoting global sustainable development, which was defined in Brundtland’s classic 1987 report as meeting,
“the needs of the present”,
especially those of the poor,
“without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.
Against this, we have the well-known World Wide Fund for Nature’s estimate that the world is consuming natural resources at about 1.7 times the sustainable level.
However, the global response to this concern is muted, partly because those in poor countries, who are at the sharp end of the impacts, understandably have shorter horizons of both space and time. The main impediment is, of course, that natural capital does not feature in national budgets. If a forest is cut down it should be recorded as a negative contribution to GNP. Incidentally, it is fortunate that the UK’s inputs to the UN biodiversity conference in China next year are being co-ordinated by my Cambridge colleague, Sir Partha Dasgupta, who is perhaps one of the real world leaders in environmental economics.
We need to preserve diverse ecosystems. They are more sustainable and more resilient. When conditions change some minority species with different traits might get an advantage. These other species are, as it were, waiting in the wings to take over if required to do so. Sparser ecosystems cannot respond so well to changing conditions. However, changes in climate and in land use can, in combination, induce sudden changes—tipping points that amplify each other and cause runaway changes. If humanity’s collective impact on nature pushes too hard, the resultant ecological shocks could irreversibly impoverish our biosphere.
Rising and more demanding populations are putting growing stresses on the entire biosphere. We have, of course, entered the new geological era called the Anthropocene. Biodiversity is threatened when land is built on, cultivated or overgrazed, and when large areas are subdivided. These concerns are aggravated if extra land for food production or biofuels encroaches on land left for natural forests.
To feed 9 billion people in 2050 while avoiding these threats will require further-improved agriculture that is low-till and water-conserving, and GM crops, together with better engineering to reduce waste, improve irrigation and so forth. However, there will also be limits on the amount of energy available and, in some regions, severe pressure on water supplies. To feed the world we might need dietary innovations: converting insects, which are highly nutritious and rich in proteins, into palatable food, and making artificial meat instead of beef. The buzz phrase is “sustainable intensification”.
How can the UK be most effective? Regarding climate change, our Climate Change Act sets stringent targets, but even if we meet them we will reduce global emissions by only 1%. However, up to 10% of the world’s innovative ideas gestate in this country. Some of us have argued that we can amplify our leverage, as it were, on solving the climate challenge by massively enhancing research into clean energy systems so that we can accelerate their improvements and the decline in their costs. In that way, countries such as India can afford to leapfrog to a clean network rather than building coal-fired power stations.
I venture a similar argument in the context of today’s debate. If we expand and deploy our world-leading expertise in plant science, and prioritise associated engineering advances, we can substantially enhance the chance that the planet can be fed without devastating the natural world. It would be to our economic benefit in this country if we can get a lead in these key technologies. It is hard to think of a more inspiring challenge for our brilliant young biologists and engineers than using their skills to develop more efficient agriculture for the world’s rising population, without degrading the wonders and beauty of the natural world.
The most devastating consequence of biodiversity loss is extinction—destroying the book of life before we have read it. I would like to end with another quote from EO Wilson, that,
“if human actions lead to mass extinctions, it’s the sin that future generations will least forgive us for”.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin of Kennington, for ensuring that this really important topic was not overlooked as we move towards the Dissolution of Parliament.
I would like to start with the work of the Bayelsa State Oil & Environmental Commission, chaired by the right reverend Primate the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu. The commission has spent the last seven months investigating the impact of oil company activity and oil pollution in this Nigerian state, and it released its interim report last Friday
All related environment pollution, particularly oil spills and waste disposal into land, rivers, and creeks, and systematic flaring of associated gas, has destroyed lives and livelihoods in the developing world. Roughly 40 million litres of oil wind up in the Niger Delta annually—eight times more than is spilled in the whole of America, the world’s biggest producer and consumer. The ensuing loss of habitat and biodiversity, including mangrove swamps, has been enormous. Huge swathes of fragile wetlands have been destroyed. Watercourses that local people rely on for fishing have been contaminated and farmlands have been tainted. The resulting damage to human health includes higher incidences of cancer, respiratory illnesses, fertility issues and neonatal death. Surely it is unacceptable that international oil companies apply different environmental standards in Nigeria from, for example, Aberdeen. Will the Government undertake to exert pressure on international oil companies, through either legislation or regulation, to ensure that they uphold the same environmental standards, regardless of the location of their operations? That is the major ask of the commission.
I echo the concern of other noble Lords, particularly the noble Lords, Lord Judd and Lord Bruce, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Peterborough, about the Prime Minister’s announcement on the Ayrton Fund, which could divert much-needed aid to the UK from parts of the developing world which, as we have heard, suffer from extreme environmental degradation. Frankly, I do not think that making this announcement was the Prime Minister’s finest hour. Raiding the ODA budget in this way only adds insult to injury.
There is an African-led project called the Great Green Wall. Its aim is to plant a forest of trees, stretching 8,000 kilometres across the Sahel from Senegal to Djibouti. This will create a natural barrier to the desertification and land and soil degradation taking place in the region. It will provide livelihoods for millions and create habitats for biodiversity to flourish in. This is a visionary concept; I hope that it will also go quite some way in helping to improve on the soil degradation that we have heard so much about this afternoon. Why is it that DfID is not investing in this African-led initiative when France, Italy and Germany are? Perhaps the Minister could write to me and put her response in the Library. This is really important because it is a visionary investment in the natural capital which the noble Lord, Lord Rees, spoke about.
Leveraging in money from the private sector will be necessary if we are to move from the billions to the trillions of dollars needed to realise the sustainable development goals, but the focus of all new projects must remain pro-poor. We must avoid falling back into the bad decision-making that led to the Pergau dam scandal, to name the most notorious example—although many others exist. This is especially important in the context of the recently announced infrastructure commission. I applaud the aims of that commission, as we will need to leverage in the vast sums needed, but it has to be absolutely focused on delivering for the poorest countries in the world if ODA money is used to seed it.
“the Government should adopt the model of the International Development (Gender Equality) Act 2014 for climate change, to ensure that all”,
“is screened for a contribution towards a … low carbon world.”.
This would of course also embrace the activities of the CDC. Is there any intention on the part of the Government to take this suggestion forward?
In the five years from 2013 to 2018, UK Export Finance gave £2.6 billion to support fossil-fuel projects in low and middle-income countries. I believe that this completely undermines the Government’s international climate finance spend, and that the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, would agree 100% about that. However, as we move into the decade of delivery for the sustainable development goals there is only one place for fossil fuels: in the ground. My expectation is that the Minister will argue that supporting gas infrastructure in developing countries aids the transition from oil and coal, but that argument is a complete red herring. I accept what my noble friend Lord Bruce of Bennachie said; however, I do not agree with him. I agree that there is a huge challenge, but it is a challenge that must be met. There is no other option.
The fact is that the developing world itself is moving towards the decarbonisation of gas, so why are we promoting soon-to-be-defunct infrastructure to the developing world? This proposed infrastructure will last well beyond 2050 but what we really need to turn to is leapfrog technology. We need to use our initiative and imagination to harness what is already available to us. Stranded assets will help no one. We need to make sure that there is a just transition of skills and jobs from the oil industry to renewables, but we need a plan. Do the Government have a plan for a just transition? Will the Government undertake to address this policy incoherence?
Finally, if we are to realise the ambition of the sustainable development goals by 2030, we must accelerate leadership of ambition and the UK, with its expertise in development, must use its voice and influence. A number of noble Lords have mentioned the soft power that we still retain on the global stage. DfID’s voice and influence is respected throughout the world. It has the leverage referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Rees. As we approach the “decade of delivery” it would be a reckless move to expunge the department’s influence by subsuming it into other government departments. I ask the Minister to make an unequivocal undertaking that DfID will survive intact should the Conservative party—heaven forbid—win an outright majority on
My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, for her excellent introduction to this debate and for standing in so ably. At Oral Questions today, my noble friend raised the issue of the evidence of this Government’s commitment to biodiversity and the challenges we face. She cited the example of Natural England having its funding cut by half and its staffing cut. The noble Lord, Lord Gardiner of Kimble, responded quite strongly, even referring to the Government’s international commitment to support for development. He talked about aspirations, which are important, be we also have to lead by example. We need to evidence the change that we are making in this country. As my noble friend Lord Judd highlighted, last May the House of Commons called on the Government to lay before the House, within the next six months, urgent proposals to restore the UK’s natural environment and to deliver a circular, zero-waste economy.
Since then, this Government have failed to pursue policies adequate to the scale of the crisis. According to the Committee on Climate Change, the UK is way off target to meet its fourth carbon budget in 2023-27 and its fifth carbon budget in 2028-32. Last year, the committee set out 25 headline policy actions for the year ahead. Twelve months later, only one has been delivered in full, and 10 have not shown even partial progress. As noble Lords have also heard in this debate, this Government have also continued to pursue policies that are damaging to the natural environment abroad, including the use of UK Export Finance to subsidise fracking and fossil fuel extraction.
Between 2014 and 2018, 96% of UK Export Finance’s support to the energy sector—£2.5 billion—went to fossil fuel exports. The CDC has also continued to invest in fossil fuel energy. I acknowledge what the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, said about developing countries; their economies are in transition and need time, but the pace of action is far too slow. We need to quicken that pace.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, reminded us, last May saw representatives in Paris from 130 countries approve a report containing the most comprehensive assessment of global biodiversity ever undertaken. The report found that nature is being eroded at rates unprecedented in human history. One million species are currently threatened with extinction and we are undermining the entire natural infrastructure on which our modern world depends.
We cannot solve climate change and loss of biodiversity in isolation. We solve both or neither. Governments and businesses are nowhere close to doing enough. The world is on track to miss the targets of the Paris agreement and 80% of the UN sustainable development goals—on food, water and energy security. As the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, highlighted, unsustainable agricultural practices will undermine future food production. Today 815 million people go to bed hungry, 38 million more than in 2015. Yet, if food waste were a country, its emissions would rank third in the world after China and the US, producing 8% of manmade emissions.
The loss of biodiversity and human-induced climate change are not only environmental issues, as we have heard in this debate. They are developmental, economic, social, security, equity and moral issues as well. Poorer countries have felt the impact of climate change first and worst, yet they have done the least to cause it. Climate change has mainly been caused by rich, developed, industrialised countries that have developed their economies while burning fossil fuels.
The UK has announced, as we have heard from all noble Lords, a doubling of its overseas aid funding to tackle climate change. This includes increasing its international climate finance support to nearly £12 billion at least over the next five years. Zac Goldsmith, the Minister, said in the IDC inquiry last week that this will be spent on “nature-based solutions”. How do the Government define nature-based solutions? Definitions are important. Some in the forestry industry, as we heard from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, argue that monoculture plantations are acceptable as a nature-based solution, but the priority has to be protecting and restoring existing, mature, biodiverse forest, as this draws down much more carbon. It is completely false to suggest that, if these disappear, monoculture plantations can replace them. I would like to hear from the Minister about that definition.
The Government have also announced aid funding for the new Ayrton Fund, which will give British scientists and innovators access to up to £1 billion of aid funding to create new technology to help developing countries reduce their emissions. This is very welcome, and we have heard about the importance of research in tackling this issue. But I am concerned that instead of building capacity in developing countries, much of the cash will be spent with British universities and private firms. What is DfID doing to ensure that we build expertise in developing countries so that the technology is developed there as well, and we have far more sustainable solutions? It is essential that we understand the linkages between the threats of climate change and biodiversity and implement actions to address both.
The noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, ended her contribution to today’s debate by referring to her party’s commitments. I shall do the same; this is the opportunity to do that. Labour in government will reclaim the UK’s leading role in tackling climate change and work hard to preserve the Paris Agreement and deliver on our international commitments to reduce emissions, while mitigating the impacts of climate change on global south countries. Within DfID, we will act to: ensure that UK aid does not support fossil fuel projects; divest DfID from fossil fuels as soon as practical and possible; reinvest in renewable energy infrastructure; develop an alternative measure of well-being and economic success instead of GDP growth; and reduce the importance of GDP growth as an objective of UK-funded development programmes. We will act with other government departments and international partners to ensure that the UK gets back on track with meeting its commitments under the Paris climate agreement, and we will use our position on multinational development banks around the world to work with them to reduce investment in fossil fuels and increase investment in renewable energy.
I conclude with the words from the contribution of the right reverend Prelate: we need to be kind to our environment and take care of our natural resources. I am sure that is what we have heard from every noble Lord in this debate; I just want the Government to make the same sort of commitment.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Jenkin for moving this debate and thank all noble Lords who have taken part this afternoon. A doorkeeper handed me an anonymous note during the debate—but it was on House of Lords paper, so I assume it was from a reputable source—which reminded me of the old saying: “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children”. I could not agree more.
The most pressing test of this responsibility is the twin challenges of dangerous levels of climate change and catastrophic environmental degradation. Addressing this—both what we do ourselves in the UK and what we can achieve globally in partnership with others—is a priority for the Government, and it reflects the growing concerns and the wish of British people that we act.
The sustainable use of natural resources is intimately linked to preventing loss of the ecosystem services essential to sustain human life. We also want to protect species for their own sake. The variety of plant and animal life in the world or in a particular habitat is a wealth we have inherited and must steward to pass on to generations to come.
We must also recognise our own responsibility, as many noble Lords acknowledged. From clearing our natural forest to harnessing energy from fossil fuels for manufacturing, heating and electricity, we have contributed to the greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. We have polluted water resources and oceans, overfished our seas and degraded our soils, losing animal and plant species in the process and impacting on human well-being.
We now know the extent and consequences of this action and the impact on both humans and wildlife. Climate change and environmental degradation are bound up with development not just because of the risks they pose to sustained poverty reduction if we do not act but because tackling them is integral to countries’ development, their spending and their policy choices. We need climate-smart development that boosts resilience, uses resources well and drives sustainable economic growth. As the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, pointed out, developing countries have a chance to leapfrog in their use of technology and approaches and avoid the mistakes we made in the past. We must do what we can to help them.
Many noble Lords highlighted the precarious state our world is in, so I shall not repeat the worrying statistics but aim to respond to as many of the points raised as I can. Many issues were highlighted. We need to do more across the Department for International Development and, indeed, across our government.
One of our main levers is investment. As many noble Lords mentioned, we have committed to doubling the UK’s international climate finance from £5.8 billion to £11.6 billion over the period 2021-25. That funding will support some of the most vulnerable communities in the world to develop low-carbon technologies and shift from fossil fuels to clean energy. For example, this will help to replace wood-burning stoves and kerosene lamps, used by millions of the world’s poorest families, with sustainable and more reliable technologies such as solar power for cooking, heating and lighting.
The noble Lords, Lord Judd and Lord Bruce asked about our ICF strategy. We are working on a new strategy—it has been some time since the last one—which will set out how we will deliver our commitment to double our ICF. That will be published in the new year. I agree that it is important that everyone sees the evidence in the strategy and has the opportunity to question it. We will focus on halting deforestation and preventing irreversible diversity loss, unlocking affordable and clean energy, helping countries, economies and communities to become more resilient and building sustainable cities and transport systems.
My noble friend Lady Jenkin asked about co-ordination. That is important when we have such a large fund split across multiple government departments, and we are working to ensure that we are properly joined up. We have many working-level and ministerial-level meetings on that, but the appointment of a joint Defra and DfID Minister has been a really good opportunity to further improve that collaboration and coherence between the two departments. He is an excellent Minister and we have seen real progress, but we must continue to ensure that we work together effectively.
Several noble Lords mentioned COP 26, the hosting of which is a huge opportunity for us. We are committed to delivering an impactful presidency and, indeed, an impactful COP. My noble friend Lord Caithness is right to highlight the importance of using our soft power, and COP 26 is a prime opportunity to do so.
We have already demonstrated our international leadership on climate change at the UN Climate Action Summit, through both our financial commitment and our leadership on the resilience and adaption strand; we are committed to building on that legacy. I am a great believer in using impending events to focus the mind on achieving real change, and we have a great president in Claire Perry. She will shortly be standing down from the other place—she will be a great loss—but she will be able to focus exclusively on making COP 26 a great success. I know, because I asked her last week, that she will be delighted to brief noble Lords on progress and what we are trying to achieve, so we will arrange that for the next Session.
My noble friend Lady Hooper asked about the move of COP 25 from Chile. We are grateful to Spain for agreeing to host it. Chile still holds the presidency chair, so we ought to have the same agenda, but we are awaiting confirmation of that.
Many noble Lords talked about finance, which, of course, is crucial. As I said, we are fulfilling our pledge to provide at least £5.8 billion of international climate finance up to 2020. That is part of the developed countries’ commitment to mobilise $100 billion of climate finance annually from 2020.
As the noble Lord, Lord Judd, said, tackling climate change and protecting the environment is a global effort, and we need to continue to play a leading role in shaping and investing in the international system. We are major funders of the Global Environment Facility and made a recent pledge to the Green Climate Fund but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, said, we are clear that public finance, still less donor ODA, will not be enough by itself. We have launched a green finance strategy, and we need to ensure that businesses take action here, too. We are seeing some progress. At the Climate Action Summit, more than 50 financial institutions pledged to test their $2.9 trillion in assets for their risk to climate change, and nine multilateral development banks committed to support global climate action investments by targeting $175 billion in annual financing by 2025. However, the summit was not an end in itself; it is not enough, and we need to do more to mobilise more finance annually.
On the question of new funding and funding being taken away from DfID’s core work, the funding we have announced is a commitment to future spending from 2021-22 onwards. Decisions about development priorities will be made as part of the Government’s work for the next spending review. Of course, tackling climate change and protecting the environment are bound up with development and, as noble Lords have said, are fundamental to delivering the sustainable development goals, so it is appropriate that they should be a priority for UK aid, which noble Lords have recognised.
Many noble Lords spoke about the importance of protecting our precious biodiversity. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, spoke about how personal actions can improve biodiversity but, as he said, practices here can be very different from those overseas. Climate change and biodiversity are two sides of the same coin; they must be addressed in tandem if we are to protect the planet for future generations. My noble friend Lord Caithness gave the good example of the South Georgian pipit, where a relatively small intervention can rescue a species on an island.
We were delighted to announce a £220 million international biodiversity fund at UNGA to protect and enhance global biodiversity. That includes: £100 million for a new biodiverse landscapes fund, which will focus on five highly biodiverse landscapes globally; £90 million for the Darwin Initiative, representing a tripling of annual funding for this long-established fund that has supported thousands of biodiversity projects in developing countries over the past 25 years; and £30 million to tackle the illegal wildlife trade, mentioned by my noble friend Lady Jenkin, which includes a doubling of funding for the illegal wildlife trade challenge fund. This is welcome; as the noble Lord, Lord Rees, said, extinction is the sin that future generations will not forgive us for.
We are committed to leading action globally on halting the loss of biodiversity and to developing an ambitious and transformational new post-2020 global framework for biodiversity. This morning, next year was described to me as a super-year for biodiversity—let us hope so. For example, there will be a big convention on biological diversity in China.
The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, asked about habitats. The UK will support ambitious targets on species, habitats, protected areas and other issues but, of course, ambitious targets must be met with ambitious action if we are to halt and reverse biodiversity loss.
Many noble Lords mentioned forestry and rainforests. Our new international climate finance funding will help to protect our incredible rainforests, which act as vital carbon sinks and help to restore degraded ecosystems, such as abandoned land. We are leading international efforts to reverse deforestation trends by promoting responsible supply chains in timber and agricultural commodities, as well as by supporting countries in transforming the way in which forests are governed. We are working with the private sector to incubate public/private partnerships to catalyse investment in sustainable forests and land use. As my noble friend Lady Jenkin said, local communities are the best custodians of the forest and we must make sure that we get investment to them.
On oceans and plastic pollution, I should declare a personal interest as I like to spend as much of my time as possible underwater. Indeed, I spent this summer volunteering at a marine conservation camp on a tiny, remote island off the coast of Malaysian Borneo. There I saw at first hand the effects of destructive fishing practices and increased plastics in our ocean. The organisation I volunteered for—the Tropical Research and Conservation Centre—does brilliant work in constructing artificial reefs and clearing plastics from the ocean and beaches, as well as scientific research into turtles, fish and invertebrates, but TRACC is just a small organisation on a very small island trying to deal with a global problem. More than 40% of our amphibian species, almost 33% of reef-forming corals and more than a third of all our marine mammals are threated; unless we make major changes at a global level, future generations will see a very different underwater world to the one I have.
I am delighted that the UK is leading the world on marine protection and is on track to deliver more than 4 million square kilometres of protected oceans around the UK overseas territories by 2020. We will continue to prioritise ocean research to address gaps in our knowledge on the impacts of climate change, ocean acidification, the carbon cycle and the benefits of marine protected areas. We are championing an international commitment to protect at least 30% of the global ocean through marine protected areas by 2030—a commitment known as “30 by 30”. That also highlights the role that marine protected areas can play in providing nature-based solutions for carbon sequestration, as well as adaptation and resilience to climate change. We have so far directly helped 100,000 people through building resilient jobs and supporting marine life. We are also setting up pilot waste recycling projects in Ghana, Bangladesh and Uganda, and we are providing match funding to set up recycling hubs across Pakistan to stop 2,000 tonnes of plastic—more than 150 million plastic bottles—from entering the ocean each year.
Many noble Lords raised the issue of using fossil fuels. As the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, said in his very well-considered speech, this is a complex area where there are no easy solutions. However, I will probably make the argument predicted by the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan. Energy is of course essential to economic growth and poverty reduction. Some 840 million people currently have no access to electricity, while 2.9 billion people do not have access to clean cooking. Our priority is to help developing countries to establish secure and sustainable energy supplies and at the same time support climate and environmental objectives. We have committed to aligning all UK ODA with the objectives of the Paris agreement, which will include making fossil fuel policy consistent with them. Increasingly, of course, our ODA spending supports renewable energy. Since 2011, UK aid has provided more than 26 million people with improved access to clean energy and has installed 1,600 megawatts of clean energy capacity, thus reducing or avoiding 16 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. However, we recognise that countries will continue to need a mix of energy sources as part of the transition towards low-carbon and sustainable economies, including renewable energy and lower-carbon fossil fuels such as natural gas, which is significantly lower-carbon than coal and other commonly used fuels.
Our approach to fossil fuels is to support them where there is a clear developmental need and as part of the transition to low-carbon economies. In assessing new support, we will ensure that any assistance does not undermine the ambitions of a country’s nationally determined contribution and that an appropriate carbon price is used in the appraisal of the programme. However, I have taken on board the point made by the noble Baronesses, Lady Bennett and Lady Sheehan, and work is ongoing to review the Government’s approach to fossil fuels and ODA. We will look at where and when to consider assistance with fossil fuel development, including by bilaterals. The noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, raised CDC. It has made no new investments in coal-fired power projects since 2012. When it invests in fossil fuels, it does so with the aim of reducing emissions and as part of a low carbon-growth transition plan. CDC is in the process of revising its climate strategy to set out publicly how, as a development finance institution, it plans to support the goals set out in the Paris agreement. I look forward to seeing that.
I turn to agriculture, which the noble Lords, Lord Cameron and Lord German, and others raised. I agree that African agriculture needs investment which could indeed bring huge rewards. The noble Lord, Lord Rees, highlighted the progress we need in sustainable diversification. On infrastructure, we are providing funding through the adaptation for smallholder agriculture programme, which is building climate-proof rural infrastructure. We are also supporting new rural roads. More than 2,000 kilometres of new rural roads have been built, while over 97% of public investment is in rural infrastructure through our global agriculture and food security programme. We are investing in innovative digital infrastructure for agriculture. I am grateful to the noble Lord for highlighting the good work of DfID on legal security of tenure and we are continuing work on that. The noble Lord also said that the greatest need in African agriculture is knowledge, including for women, and I wholeheartedly agree with that. We are working on programmes with the private sector to provide training opportunities so that farmers can better manage their crops and soils, and we are investing in farmer field schools which have led to the adoption of good practices that build soil fertility.
Nature-based solutions play a critical role in addressing climate change in terms of both mitigation and adaptation. The noble Lord, Lord Collins, asked how we define that. It is about using cost-effective methods to tackle climate change which also deliver for biodiversity and sustainable development, reducing emissions and acting as carbon sinks, thus taking carbon out of the atmosphere and helping to build resilience. They include a range of interventions centred on land use and the natural environment, including the marine environment such as afforestation and peatland restoration. The Prime Minister has said that he wants to put nature-based solutions at the heart of the UK’s presidency, so I think we will see more in that area. I agree with the noble Lord that having a clear definition of these things is very helpful. We launched the Just Rural Transition initiative at the UN climate summit to drive policy reform and investment towards a new vision that will help to support shifts towards more resilient land use and sustain ecosystems.
My noble friend Lady Jenkin and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, talked about the “do no harm” principle, which is incredibly important. All DfID programmes are designed and implemented in line with our own smart rules, which include the principle to avoid doing harm in our programming, including to the environment. I will take back my noble friend’s suggestion and the point that the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, raised; we can do more in this area.
My noble friend Lord Caithness spoke about ODA spend by the EU. I take the opportunity to highlight how proud we are of our commitment to spend 0.7% of our GNI on ODA. As my noble friend points out, this is higher than some of our EU partners and above the EU average of 0.5%. I agree that the Department for International Development’s independence and the scrutiny of all our ODA spending across government are important. That is something we are working on. I am a passionate supporter of 0.7%. I hope that those who are not—a few remain—have listened to this debate, because it has been an excellent example that it is worth spending at least 0.7% of our ODA on some of the most important issues we face, both on climate and, of course, on reducing poverty.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, spoke about palm oil. The UK supports sustainable trade in palm oil. We are working with Indonesia to support a revision of the Indonesian sustainable palm oil standard, and with other European Governments and companies throughout the palm oil supply chain to tackle deforestation. Like the noble and learned Lord, I have seen those palm oil plantations and was equally struck by the devastating effect that has on species—the orangutan, obviously, but many others. We can do more and are working to do more on this.
The noble Lords, Lord Bruce and Lord Cameron, raised the issue of population growth. It is the growth in the levels of consumption by unsustainable development that influences carbon emissions and increases climate change, rather than population growth itself, but I take the opportunity to wholeheartedly agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, on population and providing women with choice. Some 240 million women around the world want to delay or space their next presidency—I mean pregnancy, although the more women who can get presidencies, the better—but are not able to use modern methods of contraception. We are taking action to improve access to that and to improve sexual and reproductive health and rights. That, alongside investment in girls’ education and empowerment, strong economic growth and development, will reduce unwanted fertility. We will continue to do a lot in that area.
On clean energy and green technology, the noble Lord, Lord Rees, spoke of the importance of investing in our research. I did not realise that 10% of good ideas come from the UK. I highlight the £1 billion Ayrton Fund we announced at UNGA. That fund is named after the British physicist and suffragette Hertha Ayrton, whose work at the beginning of the 20th century inspired the Ayrton anti-gas fans that saved lives during the First World War. It is new funding that will help leading scientists and innovators from across the UK and the world, ensuring that they can access that. I take the point on ensuring that we are not diverting this money away from reducing poverty, which of course is our core aim at DfID. Tackling climate change and protecting the environment are bound up with development. It is fundamental to delivering the SDGs. It is appropriate that it should be a priority, and all our programmes that deploy our ICF are designed to deliver strong developmental benefits as well as tackling climate change.
The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, raised the activist in Vietnam. I have great respect for those who put themselves on the front line in protecting the environment. We are supporting those on the front line and, for example, funding anti-poacher ranger training in Malawi. I will come back to the noble Baroness on the details of that case.
The noble Lord, Lord German, raised fruit trees in Lesotho and Mrs Fokotsale’s garden. Where we spend money is, of course, a constant question that we ask ourselves in DfID. We are focused on helping as many people as possible, but of course we must spend taxpayers’ money efficiently; it has been a while since the last aid strategy. It is something we look at and continue to review. I also agree with the noble Lord on putting the tangible and intangible support together between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and DfID. We work very well together, but there can always be improvements. The noble Lord asked about the Governments in Scotland and Wales and rightly highlighted the work they do in this area. We meet our counterparts and work with many NGOs in Scotland and Wales but, again, there is always room for improvement.
The noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, spoke about the environmental report, which I am afraid I have not seen. I will go back and look at it and come back to her in writing with a clear response on that. She is right to say that we do not currently finance the Great Green Wall initiative, but we do fund similar projects. Again, I will come back to her in writing with detail on that.
This debate has been about the Government’s international development work to promote the sustainable use of natural resources and prevent biodiversity loss. I hope I have been able to explain a bit more about what we are doing in this area and answer some of the questions from noble Lords—I have run out of time to answer all of them. To my noble friend Lady Hooper, I say that the Small Charities Challenge Fund is alive and well, and I am a great supporter of it. We are using it to support WasteAid projects in Gambia and Kenya to increase plastic recycling and support livelihoods. However, I will write to all noble Lords, and place a copy in the Library, on that and other things, including Cyprus, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller. I will go through Hansard and make sure that I come back in writing—I will have to be quick, as we do not have long before Parliament breaks.
I also agree with the right reverend Prelate, as did the noble Lord, Lord Collins, that we should all be kinder to the environment, and indeed each other. We should also recognise all our environmental work in the context of poverty. We must support small-scale projects and bear in mind how our larger projects affect smaller ones. We need to move away from the idea that you can tackle either environmental and climate problems or poverty. We all know that the poorest in the world will be hit hardest by climate change and that the poorest in the world depend most directly on natural resources, and so destroying ecosystems plunges them into destabilisation and yet more poverty.
As I said at the start, addressing the twin challenges of dangerous levels of climate change and catastrophic environmental degradation is our greatest challenge. It is easy to worry for our future, and we are right to be concerned about the state of the world we leave for future generations. The noble Lord, Lord Collins, is right to say that we are not on track; we are not where we need to be and we need to step up. But there is also some room for hope. The UK is in a position of global leadership in this area. We have a great opportunity next year at COP 26 to make real global progress. We are seeing individuals question their personal behaviour and take action to contribute. We are seeing incredible interest and passion from those younger than us, but we know that we do not have time to wait for that younger generation to grow up and take action—it is on us. It is on my department, the whole of government, Parliament and all of us as legislators to take action now to leave the world fit for future generations.
My Lords, having inherited this debate at short notice, I was a little anxious about how to approach such an enormous, complex and, frankly, rather scary issue, but I knew that we would have a great debate. Because there is so much to say, we have, as so often in this Chamber, heard a wide-ranging variety of speeches on so many different elements of the topic, and I am grateful to all noble Lords for taking part. I am also grateful to the Minister for answering so many varied points in such detail.
We are now in the dying hours of this Parliament, and I think I detect a slight change from our normal moderate, less party-political tone. The future is unclear and unsure but, as the noble Lord, Lord Rees, put it, this issue is an ethical imperative, and we will be returning to it for urgent action when we meet again early in the new year.
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure, until the conclusion of the election of the Speaker of the House of Commons, and to receive a Royal Commission for Her Majesty’s Approbation. Timings will be announced on the annunciator in the usual way, but just so that noble Lords have some information, that will probably be about 75 minutes or so after the Speaker has been elected in the other place.