Climate Change: Impact on Developing Nations - Motion to Take Note

– in the House of Lords at 3:35 pm on 11 January 2024.

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Baroness Northover:

Moved by Baroness Northover

That this House takes note of the United Kingdom’s contribution to international development, in particular with regard to the impact of climate change on developing nations.

Photo of Baroness Northover Baroness Northover Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I appreciate the number of noble Lords who have chosen to take part in this debate, and I look forward to the maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester. I also appreciate that the noble Lord, Lord Benyon, is answering this debate, as the Minister spanning both FCDO and Defra. He has shown himself committed over many years to addressing climate change.

I start by declaring non-financial interests as a trustee of AgDevCo and MedAccess, both of which have been recipients of ODA, and as a council member of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

The UN’s millennium development goals, set out in 2000, saw considerable progress. By 2015, more people had been pulled out of poverty; more children were in school; and more women were able to access family planning, with the benefit this brought to the women themselves, their families and their communities. The MDGs were superseded by the sustainable development goals in 2015, aiming to end absolute poverty by 2030. The United Kingdom played a leading role in their development, with the UN committee co-chaired by the UK, and an outstanding—then DfID—civil servant, Michael Anderson, as the key negotiator and penholder. The UK was at the heart of the development agenda globally, as well as within the EU, and the biggest global contributor financially.

I had the privilege in the coalition Government to serve first as a DfID spokesperson in your Lordships’ House, and then as Africa Minister from 2014. During that time, we brought the UK’s commitment to international development up to the UN-recommended target of 0.7% of GNI. The last act of the coalition was to enshrine that commitment into law, with cross-party support.

Since then, without consultation, in 2020, Boris Johnson smashed DfID and merged it with the FCO. Later that year, he cut the aid budget. DfID served a long-term goal: working with huge expertise to seek to address poverty and the long-term economic development of the poorest countries, so that they could transition out of aid. The FCO, by contrast, focused on the UK’s more immediate foreign policy concerns. Both are laudable aims, with some compatibility in terms of global stability, on which the two departments, with the Ministry of Defence, had long worked together.

However, the two departments did not sit easily together. To put some budgets, for example, in the hands of ambassadors, great though they might be at their job, risked the long-term strategic aim of economic development, which was DfID’s raison d’être. With the collapse of Afghanistan to the Taliban in 2021, and especially the invasion by Putin of Ukraine in 2022, the ODA budget was turned inward, supporting refugees in the UK.

From 2020, of course, we suffered the pandemic, but so did every other country, with the poorest the least able to protect their citizens. However, what we face now is far more profound, and that is climate change. The overwhelming scientific consensus has long been that human activity is having a dangerous and profound effect on the climate. The world agreed collective action at Paris in 2015 to tackle this, seeking to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees centigrade over pre-industrial levels.

Nowhere in the world will escape its effect, but some places will be hit first and far worse than others. The small island states of the Pacific are even now seeing their settlements drowned, and I heard yesterday of the first indigenous groups in central America being displaced by climate change. Climate change is operating at four times the global rate in Greenland, with potentially devastating effects there but also in terms of sea level rises globally. We know that the poorest will be hit—are being hit—the most and the worst. We also know that women and girls, the old and the very young, are the most vulnerable, as the Lancet study and others have demonstrated.

Many people in developing countries, especially in Africa, are of course entirely reliant on small-scale, rain-fed agriculture. In east Africa, directly due to climate change, we are seeing the worst drought in over 40 years; Plan International and others report that 20 million people are now at risk of acute food insecurity and, potentially, famine. Whereas in the United Kingdom we have research institutes studying how best to adapt, and the infrastructure potentially to help—for example, converting apple orchards to vineyards—that kind of support and resilience is lacking in the poorest countries, so we will see more conflict and migration and an increased risk of pandemics. As now, these are likely to be exploited by populist and authoritarian movements globally, with associated risks. Yet we know we are not on course to tackle climate change. This week, scientists said that 2023 has been the hottest year on record. So what are we doing to assist developing countries and to tackle climate change?

Here I turn to the recently released international development White Paper. I commend Andrew Mitchell for his leadership in trying to undo some of the damage that Johnson did in dismantling DfID and cutting aid, actions which Johnson took even while apparently being concerned about climate change, simply not seeing the connections in what he aspired to do and what he did. The new paper seeks to take a long-term approach, and I would expect nothing less from Andrew. He has sought wide international and national endorsement, and, again, I would expect nothing less. He has launched the new UKDev—UK International Development—trying to resurrect some of what DfID was. The paper makes the case for development for global stability. I recall that the noble Lord, Lord Hannay—I am glad he is taking part in the debate this afternoon—was a member of the UN High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change that made this case 20 years ago. It is as true now as it was then.

On climate change, Jim Skea, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is quoted as saying:

“The science and the evidence is clear, unless ambitious action is taken to combat climate change, we will not be able to secure development goals. We need a step change. Now is the time for action”.

The noble Lord, Lord Stern, chair of the Grantham Research Institute at the LSE, and so well known to us here in this House, says:

“Climate Change and biodiversity loss are existential challenges. Failure to act with urgency and on scale will have devastating effects on prospects for development, undermine poverty reduction, exacerbate conflict, and push the world further off track on the SDGs”.

The new Foreign Secretary, the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, states:

“Climate change’s impact on lives and livelihoods is accelerating, affecting developing countries the most”.

Andrew Mitchell says:

“We know that poverty, conflict, and climate change often go hand in hand”.

The paper itself argues that

“The impacts of climate change and nature loss are being felt by everyone, everywhere. Extreme weather, sea level rise and ecosystem collapse are accelerating, with the impacts felt most acutely in developing countries”.

Who now would disagree?

I am struck in the paper by evidence quoted which is of past actions, when DfID existed and the aid budget stood at 0.7%. Projections forward include many suggested ways of seeking to influence the international community rather than actions the UK can take.

Elsewhere, Sir Mark Lowcock, former Permanent Secretary at DfID and UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs argues that:

“The government abandoned the 0.7 percent commitment in 2020. It then raided the remainder of the aid budget in 2021 and 2022 to deal with domestic problems, above all the cost of looking after refugees, especially from Ukraine. The effect was to reduce the aid budget … to about 0.3 percent of national income … A chunk of the remaining budget—about 15 percent … can, as a result of restrictions imposed by the Treasury, only be used to buy assets. Almost all of that has been going into continuous additional capitalisation of British International Investment (BII). BII has its virtues but it is currently ill equipped to play a major role in addressing the core poverty problem”.

What is more,

“all these changes have been landed on the aid budget with essentially no warning, making a mockery of any hope of rational planning or financial management”.

Quite so.

For poorer countries, addressing climate change requires external finance. However, as Oxfam and others point out, well-off and polluting countries have repeatedly failed to meet the agreed pledge to raise $100 billion annually in climate finance and have only recently established a mechanism for funding loss and damage. Poorer countries need such finance to avoid increasing debt burdens—finance that is new and additional. Can the Minister clarify whether the UK, as it seems, is not seeking to meet its commitment with new and direct funding but rather is including payments to development banks and BII? At COP 28, the UK Government pledged £40 million for the loss and damage fund. Is this new money, or has it been taken from an existing part of the aid budget?

The economic shocks of the pandemic and rising food and fuel prices have plunged 54 global South countries into debt crises. Debt Justice notes that they are spending five times more on debt repayments than they are on adapting to the climate crisis. Tackling climate change clearly needs to be a main focus of our international development strategy. The White Paper states:

“The UK Government will take a whole-of-government approach to deliver our strategic vision for international development … to end extreme poverty, tackle climate change and biodiversity loss”.

So what is this “whole of government” doing? The Government plan to issue new oil and gas licences. Alok Sharma, president of COP 26 in Glasgow, says that he cannot support these, arguing that the UK seems to be

“rowing back from climate action”.

Chris Skidmore, commissioned by the Government to review whether we were on course to deliver net zero by 2050, has taken the extraordinary action of resigning as a Conservative MP in protest:

“Where the UK Government once led in promoting climate action at COP26, it now finds itself opposing the International Energy Agency, the UN climate conferences and the Committee on Climate Change.”

This action follows those of the autumn, when the targets for banning the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles were slowed, undermining certainty in the automotive sector, and weakened commitments on heat pumps, where we are massively behind the rest of Europe. Is this what the “whole of government” is doing to deliver on the White Paper?

Mann Virdee of the Council on Geostrategy quotes Benjamin Franklin:

“Well done is better than well said”.

That is indeed the case. The United Kingdom had a long and proud record as a global leader in international development—something that was in our interest, as well as being the right thing to do. It is difficult to re-establish this without the means to achieve it. Meanwhile, the world faces the existential challenge of climate change, which will affect the poorest and the weakest first and the most. There is little evidence that this Government are joined-up in their approach.

I look forward to the contributions of others. I am sure that the Minister will set out all sorts of things that the Government are doing, but I think that, in his heart of hearts, he will wish that he had a stronger hand to play.

Photo of Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone Conservative 3:51, 11 January 2024

My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Baroness for her thoughtful address, in which she made a number of extremely important comments. Like her, I much look forward to the maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate shortly. I want to talk about climate change and then go on to focus more specifically on malaria.

The COP 26 conference was a great success. The Glasgow climate pact, with 90% of the world’s economies committed to net-zero targets, was a remarkable step forward. The House is well aware that developing countries disproportionately are affected by the impacts of climate change, severe weather events, rising sea levels, and disruption to agriculture and water sources. Indeed, at that time, the developed nations reinforced the pledge to provide £79 billion to developing countries annually. This was followed by the recent COP 28—two COPs later—where nearly every country in the world agreed to move away from fossil fuels after 28 years of international climate negotiations. It was a world first getting fossil fuels into a UN climate agreement; again, those in need were recognised.

Of course, I am a great expert in international climate events because I was a bag-carrier at the first international climate conference, in 1989, when Mrs Thatcher was fighting the ozone layer. She was doing so because the British Antarctic scientists had said that there was a gap in the ozone layer—had it been the Spanish, French or German Antarctic survey, I am not so sure how energetic she would have been. But it was the model, and it was rigorously science-based. It was very much the hallmark of British development policy. It was about industrial collaboration and innovation. It was about public relations and an NGO campaign, as well as international action. I would say that that formula has not changed greatly.

I said that I wanted to speak in particular about malaria, one of the world’s oldest and deadliest diseases. It still kills a child every minute, yet it is relatively cheap and easy to address. In the 19th century, Louis Pasteur, the great pioneering French chemist and microbiologist, said:

“It is within the power of man to eradicate infection from the earth”.

But that power has so far eradicated only two infectious diseases: smallpox and rinderpest. Polio is coming closer. The Global Malaria Eradication Programme began in 1955 but was later abandoned. During the 1980s and 1990s, with increased insecticide and drug resistance, and a general deterioration of primary health services, the burden of malaria increased substantially in Africa.

The launch of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has been a great initiative. Supported by seed funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, it has now had five directors. I must declare an interest because Sir Richard Feachem, the fund’s first executive director, was appointed by my organisation, along with around 40 other appointments. It has not used us again—I do not know what that means. This has been a wonderful development. We saw mortality fall by 50% between 2000 and 2015. Of course, Covid has set us back, but 25 countries achieved three consecutive years of zero locally acquired malaria between 2020 and 2021.

There is more that we all have to do, but, as the noble Baroness pointed out, with the UN sustainable development goals, the end of the malaria epidemic by 2030 is definitely achievable. I think that we all welcome the Government’s £1 billion contribution to the seventh replenishment of the global fund, supporting vital tools to combat malaria: the distribution of 86 million mosquito nets, 450,000 seasonable malaria chemo prevention treatments, and treatment and care for 18 million people.

British research, innovation and technology have all played a part. I accept that financial resource is always a great help and I appreciate the problems of limited budgets, but I do not think that anybody should underestimate the leadership of Britain in pioneering initiatives and in tackling global health and development issues. It is the leadership, the science base, the collaborative approach and the consistency that can ensure that we play a real part in reducing climate change and assisting developing nations further.

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Labour 3:56, 11 January 2024

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, and to recognise that questions of health, development, poverty and climate change are all interrelated. I thank also the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, for initiating this debate. I must declare that I am a shortly-to-retire member of your Lordships’ Environment and Climate Change Committee, and therefore will concentrate largely on that aspect.

Yesterday’s edition of the Times—which is not normally regarded as an ultra-green broadsheet—reported clearly and with alarm that last year was the hottest on record and probably the hottest for over 100,000 years. It also indicated that it was one of the most disappointing years for the COP process; although the Minister and the UK delegation were helpful in ensuring that it was not quite the disappointment that the petrostates and some of the fossil fuel companies were looking for, it still did not go sufficiently far forward to say that we were on target for the 1.5 degree limit to global warming that was set in Paris, which was concluded to still be possible at the Glasgow COP 26 but now looks to be within 0.02 degrees of being reached already.

I have three essential points. First, this more rapid than expected rise in temperature and the level of carbon emissions, with rising sea levels and extreme floods, extreme heat, wildfires and so forth, means that the very existence of some nation states which are party to the COP process is at stake. Obviously, the low-lying islands of the Pacific and some in the Caribbean are first in line, but there are large areas of other countries, such as low-lying areas of Bangladesh, where agricultural and industrial land could easily be flooded within a relatively few years.

It all makes the case for establishing an effective loss and damage fund, as was agreed in principle but does not seem to have been followed up sufficiently by other nations. The threat has already been sustained to the land, biodiversity and very existence of many of these islands. As far as Britain’s commitment is concerned, we have been more forthcoming than most rich countries in making our contributions to all the bilateral and multilateral arrangements. But we have not even ourselves fulfilled all our commitments, and many other countries are further behind.

What constitutes our ODA budget, let alone our abandonment of the 0.7% target referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, is also a complex story. I am indebted to the Library for its briefing on this. The largest single element of ODA expenditure covers refugees in this country. The largest sums of bilateral aid to other countries, by far, were to Afghanistan and Ukraine. I recognise that there are good geopolitical and humanitarian reasons for those contributions, but I am not sure that they should be classed as development. Ukraine is still a developed country, although it is scarred by a vicious war, and Afghanistan is probably the country least threatened by rising sea levels. Pacific nations, which are most at risk, received a very small proportion of aid from Britain. Multilateral aid, as I say, is yet to be fully forthcoming.

My third and last point is that the whole process of COP and the IPCC recommendations mean that we need differential targets for richer countries, less-developed countries and large countries such as India and China—although there are disputes about whether they are to be regarded as developing countries, they are some of the biggest polluters and emitters. They need much sharper targets than we will give to the poorest developing countries. We need formally to recognise that in the COP process, otherwise unity across the nations will not continue.

We need to do that and to recognise not only that we were big polluters historically but that most carbon in the atmosphere has been put there not since 1945 but since 1990, when the world leaders in Rio recognised the truth of the science for the first time. That we have recognised that and let the globe warm to the extent that it has is a rebuke to us all.

Photo of Lord Bruce of Bennachie Lord Bruce of Bennachie Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Scotland) 4:02, 11 January 2024

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for initiating this debate and draw attention to my entry in the register as a consultant at DAI and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, as a non-financial chair of Water Unite and as president of the Caribbean Council.

There is no doubt that the precipitate merger of DfID and the FCO and the accompanying slashing of budgets has had deeply damaging effects. The UK’s reputation as a world leader in development assistance was literally trashed, leaving many vulnerable people bereft and at risk. As my noble friend said, dedicated and experienced development practitioners left the sector and relationships with partner countries were damaged. In this context, I welcome the appointment of Andrew Mitchell and the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, but that alone will not undo the damage. Under the OBR forecast, the Government’s tests for the restoration of 0.7% will be met by 2027, but the Chancellor said it cannot be done in the next five years. His priority is domestic tax cuts rather than the poor people of the world.

The Motion calls for a particular regard to the UK’s development impact on climate change in developing nations. In 2011, Paddy Ashdown, the late and much-missed Member of this House, published a review of the UK’s response to humanitarian emergencies, commissioned by Andrew Mitchell. One of its key findings was that those best able to acquire resilience were those who had already experienced disasters. The focus had to be on anticipation, prevention, mitigation and rapid recovery. People in developing countries should, of course, benefit from renewable technologies but, for many, the more urgent priority is to mitigate the impact of climate change that developed economies have inflicted on them.

In headlines, the UK makes impressive statements on the commitment to funding climate resilience in developing countries. The 2023 results for UK international climate finance are impressive but they are not stand-alone statistics. How is the four-year spending commitment of £11.6 billion broken down? How much is UK ODA, how much is from other donors, how much is from the private sector and how much is designation of existing ODA spending? Can the Government provide more detailed examples? The only ones in the results are small case studies from Zambia, Madagascar and Mexico.

One of the travesties of the Government’s decision to disrupt aid was the destruction of the cross-party consensus behind the commitment to development spending at 0.7%. That was ended when Johnson and Sunak took over, and we should not let them forget that. Cutting it in the wake of Covid, Brexit and the cost of living crisis was a statement by UK plc to the world’s poor people that we are going to tackle our—partly self-made—problems by cutting development assistance, while their problems get substantially worse.

I will give specific examples. In 2019, UK support for sexual and reproductive health and rights was £748 million; by 2021, it was £534 million. In 2020, our support for the World Food Programme was £549 million; in 2023, it was £286 million. These two areas are crucial to poverty reduction and good development. Giving women access to contraception, to safer, supported births and to safe abortion reduces poverty and improves their contribution within the community, as my noble friend said in her opening speech. With floods, drought and famine, pressure on food supplies, consequent hunger and malnutrition intensify. The World Food Programme has a very good track record of anticipating events and tackling crises.

UK ODA in 2022 was £12.79 billion; it would have been £16 billion if we had not cut it. It was further reduced by the diversion of £3.69 billion to refugee support at home. Development assistance, as previously defined, was cut by £7 billion in a single year. The Government have stated that bilateral aid will be cut again next year to maintain multilateral commitments. It is important to fulfil our obligations, even if this Government have a pretty cavalier attitude to them when it suits them, but this unfortunate choice would not have been necessary if the Government had kept faith with their legal obligation.

In summary, there is a great deal of work to do before the international community will judge the UK to have returned to leadership in international development. An integrated programme of development requires balanced priorities between humanitarian response, climate change, international action and bilateral commitment. When the pressure is on, the Cinderella services suffer. We need to address this. Without doing so, the commitment to leave nobody behind will be impossible to deliver.

Photo of Lord Hannay of Chiswick Lord Hannay of Chiswick Crossbench 4:07, 11 January 2024

My Lords, my contribution to this debate will start with tributes to three people. First, I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, not just for securing a much-needed discussion of Britain’s contribution to development aid but for her untiring and effective work as a Minister in the coalition Government and in opposition. Secondly, I welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Sugg, for her principled resignation in protest against the misguided decision to reduce our aid. Thirdly, I pay tribute to the Minister for Development, Andrew Mitchell, for having set out in last November’s White Paper the first reasonably coherent and consistent framework for our aid since the ill-advised upheaval caused by the amalgamation of DfID and the FCO.

Useful though that White Paper was, it lacked one essential element: adequate resourcing to face the worldwide challenges of climate change, pandemic disease, malnutrition, educational shortcomings and war and violent upheavals. The Government say that they will return those resources to 0.7% as soon as our circumstances permit, but what about the circumstances of the developing countries, recipients of aid, which have been just as adversely affected by the Covid pandemic, the cost of living rises and wars in Ukraine and the Middle East? The Government’s assurance has already been repeated several times and a cynic would say that it is all set for serial repetition in the years ahead. It has no credibility. Better, surely, if it is unrealistic—I accept that it is—to revert immediately to the full 0.7%, at least to set out on the path towards it, even if only modestly at first. The opportunity for that is the Budget on 6 March. I urge that it be taken.

How best to link global action against climate change to the situation of developing countries, many of which, let us recall, have contributed little or nothing to the climate crisis we all face? Obviously, we and other donor countries need to make a better job of fulfilling the commitment on aid we have collectively entered into at successive COP meetings, most recently in the UAE. What plans do the Government have to do that? We need to ensure that this increase does not come at the expense of other priorities of the developing country recipients, thus robbing Peter to pay Paul and expecting the global South to accept our priorities over theirs.

The prospect of a substantial number of developing countries, many of them in Africa, requiring urgent debt restructuring, including in some cases outright debt forgiveness, is already in sight. No doubt, as before, many donor countries will argue, short-sightedly in my view, against debt forgiveness. Would it not be better if we were to campaign to link such debt forgiveness to specific recipient country commitments on climate change expenditure? Would that not be a good deal for both? What is the Minister’s response to that sort of approach?

Since 2024 is going to be an election year, I have one final thought. Any change of government that might result will inevitably bring to the fore once again the issue of the government structures for handling our overseas aid. I have myself consistently spoken out against the last set of decisions, which led to the creation of the FCDO. It is not a question of one solution being clearly the right solution and the other being the wrong one; it is the damage caused by the Whitehall turf-fighting and the chaos of departmental reorganisations which make these successive zig-zags so damaging and undesirable. An incoming Government could perhaps give a higher priority to development aid issues other than that one, and in particular to those being highlighted in this debate.

Photo of The Bishop of Leicester The Bishop of Leicester Bishop 4:11, 11 January 2024

My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, for the opportunity to debate this hugely significant subject. I too am looking forward to the maiden speech by my right reverend friend the Bishop of Winchester, who has real expertise in this area.

When it comes to thinking about the impact of climate change on developing nations, the injustices at play are twofold. First is the fact that those nations that are being and will yet be most affected by climate change are those that have contributed least to the crisis. Secondly, much of the funds that fuelled our Industrial Revolution, wherein were sown the seeds of climate change, were generated by extracting and exploiting the resources of many of those regions, most devastatingly, of course, through the transatlantic chattel slave trade.

Our moral debt is as great as the climate emergency we face, so I was pleased to see that the Government’s international development White Paper, published in November, included “tackling climate change” in its title. I was also most encouraged to read the Government advocating for a move away from donor-recipient models of aid towards partnerships built on mutual respect, putting greater value on the voice, perspectives and needs of developing nations, as well as supporting local leadership. The paper hearteningly states:

“We will engage with humility and acknowledge our past”.

With that in mind, might the Minister inform the House of the outcomes of the Secretary of State’s meeting with the Barbadian Prime Minister in December, and whether they discussed the issue of reparations? Responding with humility and honestly acknowledging our past includes such complex issues, which directly affect a country’s ability or inability to respond to climate change.

I have said that we as a country carry a weighty moral debt, yet for developing nations the financial debt is a more tangible problem, as the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, and the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, have both already mentioned. According to the World Bank, in 2022 the external debts of countries with low and middle incomes reached $9 trillion, double the figure in 2010. The cost of servicing these debt payments is crippling, and drains funds away from what is needed to become climate resilient. Analysis by Development Finance International has shown that lower-income countries spend over 12 times more on debt payments than on adapting to the climate crisis. Indeed, some are turning to fossil fuel extraction to generate the revenue needed to reduce the burden.

We have an opportunity to build on our previous track record of debt relief. Under previous Governments, 49 low-income countries had all or part of their debts to the UK forgiven. Now many creditors are private commercial entities rather than organisations such as the IMF or the World Bank. As a result, 90% of global debt contracts are overseen by English law. We are in a unique position to legislate for private creditors to offer debt relief so climate-vulnerable countries can invest in adapting to the changes that are to come. At COP 28, the UK, along with France and the World Bank, committed to pause debt repayments when climate disasters hit. This is a valuable step forward but, when so little is owed to the UK, should we not at least ask the same of commercial creditors that operate under English law?

Debt and climate are inextricably linked so, now that the Secretary of State has put climate change at the centre of the new international development White Paper, will the Government revisit the International Development Committee’s report on debt relief and reconsider its recommendation for new legislation? We cannot undo the errors of our past, but we can let ourselves be changed by them and commit ourselves to doing justice to our global neighbours. I urge us to play our part in doing so.

Photo of Viscount Eccles Viscount Eccles Conservative 4:17, 11 January 2024

My Lords, I welcome this debate. I am an outlier because I am a pensioner of what was CDC and is now BII. Indeed, I was its chief executive about half way through its history. It is still there, and it is still doing development.

I hope for two things really. The first is that it will be accepted that, in CDC, we always thought of what we were doing from the point of view of the country where we were doing it. We never did it with the western agenda in our minds. Secondly, I hope that the pessimism, the difficulty and the incredible challenge of the debate in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, does not make us all so uncertain and depressed that in the end we stop trying to do anything. That is a bit extreme but it is a serious danger: if you do not keep trying, you stop doing things altogether.

There are 17 Commonwealth members in sub-Saharan Africa and 13 of them are in the bottom quartile of per capita incomes of the world’s countries. When we work in those countries, do we think about climate change first? I think the answer is: what do they think about first? I suspect that they think that climate change is just another aspect of the problems that they have, which are dominated by food security, so it is just a bit more of the same and not necessarily because there is so much uncertainty about the effects of climate change. People have to think more carefully about some of the certainties they are trying to express. We simply do not know why, perhaps, the yields of maize from the small farmers of Rwanda will start to drop. There is so much that we do not know about it.

I would like to refer quickly to BII, which is doing some very interesting things in relation to the prosperity of small farmers. It has made more than one investment in a Kenyan-based business which builds solar plants to drive pumps to irrigate. I think the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, made a reference to rain-fed agriculture. Of course, we all know that if you can move from rain-fed in a place where there is enough groundwater available and irrigate, your yields will increase dramatically—not just by a little but, in east Africa, dramatically.

In addition, BII is investing in a 50 megawatt, sun-driven power station and distribution system in Sierra Leone—which is not an easy place. That is a very positive move. It has also formed a subsidiary which has just agreed with the Government of Burundi to do something similar. Burundi is the bottom country on the world list—so some things are being done. In addition, right from the beginning of CDC, power has always been on its agenda. Forestry has always been on it, too, and BII is doing some very interesting work on agroforestry. Smallholder farming has always been on the agenda.

I want to move very briefly to Kew, because there we are missing a trick. Kew does a great deal of very valuable work, collecting and distributing information. It is looking into all sorts of possibilities—the power of wild relatives to improve plants, and so on—but it does not do much after collecting and distributing that information. Does my noble friend see Kew joining in the development programme, as opposed to being simply a scientific institution that says, “If you want the information, please apply for it”?

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Independent Labour 4:22, 11 January 2024

My Lords, we see all too often the terrible impact of climate change on developing countries, from devastating floods in Pakistan to appalling droughts in a number of African countries. Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland, has eloquently set out the impact of climate change on various groups, above all on the poorest of the poor in low-income developing countries. Surely a rich country such as the UK should be doing more to allocate new resources—I emphasise, new funding—rather than recycling money from other development aid allocations, greatly diminishing their impact.

It is also a regret that the Government have reneged on their original pledge to stop new oil and gas installations. It is damaging to our international reputation to increase reliance on fossil fuels, rather than investing in renewables and nuclear power. This of course led to the resignation of a much-respected Climate Change Minister. My first question to the Minister today is: why do the Government continue to provide generous subsidies and tax breaks to oil and gas companies, which are already making profits running into billions? A loophole in the Government’s windfall tax is said to result in £11.9 billion of tax relief for fossil fuel companies in the North Sea. Will the Government close this loophole and allocate the resulting savings to development aid to counter the effects of climate change in poor countries?

I turn now to the Government’s record on climate change finance for developing countries. So many times, we have been told that the Government will return when circumstances permit to 0.7% of GNI for development aid from the current 0.5%. I ask again what the criteria are for the circumstances in which that will be possible. Would the Minister also accept that the international aid budget is being decimated by the decision to cover the cost of asylum seekers and Ukrainian refugees from this source? The combination of these two decisions by the Government has meant massive cuts in many sectors where aid is desperately needed, including a failure to meet government pledges on mitigating climate change in poor countries. Given that the extreme effects of climate change are a fairly new challenge, is there not a case for establishing a special budget for it, beyond existing ODA spending?

Other speakers referred to the international development White Paper, published in November. The recommendations, including on climate change, were mainly welcomed when we debated the White Paper in this House. Regrettably, the Government’s approach does not now seem likely to meet their White Paper aspirations. In 2019, the Government pledged to spend £11.6 billion of the ODA budget on climate finance. Instead of a straightforward allocation of funding to meet this pledge, this Government have found various ways to massage the figures. They have expanded what they categorise as climate finance, increased the risk of double counting and backloaded greater proportions of spending to future years, so that the next Government—whoever they may be—will be landed with extra spending.

There are two good examples of this manipulation. First, the Government are including a share of their contributions to multilateral development banks, such as the World Bank, as climate finance. Secondly, as the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, said, they are going to count more funding going to British International Investment as climate finance. NGOs such as Oxfam and Save the Children have justifiably criticised the Government for reclassifying climate finance in ways that are vague in transparency and accountability. Save the Children calculates that these measures, along with increasing the share of humanitarian aid classified as climate finance, amount to a cut of £1.6 billion to the UK’s climate finance. The Minister is shaking his head, but perhaps he can comment on these claims by the NGOs.

Lastly, I want to turn to the loss and damage mechanism by which higher-emitting nations may help address losses in poor regimes, which are the least responsible for climate change. In contrast to adaptation and mitigation, which help poor countries change their own practices, loss and damage finance relates to areas over which they have little or no control, such as sea level rises or extreme weather events. The UK pledged finance for the loss and damage fund at COP 28, which was welcome. I believe it pledged £60 million to this fund but, yet again, it is financing it by taking funding from existing mitigation and adaptation funding. What is the point of robbing Peter to pay Paul?

I end by saying that poor countries are calculated to have been responsible for only around 5% of global emissions over time. They deserve a better response. There is an overwhelming humanitarian case for generosity. It is also in our long-term interest to avoid the future global disruption entailed by millions of climate change refugees.

Photo of The Bishop of Winchester The Bishop of Winchester Bishop 4:28, 11 January 2024

My Lords, I am conscious of the immense privilege that is mine to have a seat as of right in your Lordships’ House. I am very grateful for the welcome and help I have received from noble Lords and staff, both today and as I have been inducted into its ways.

The See of Winchester, which I serve, was founded in 660. In 838, at the Great Council of Kingston, King Ecgberht of Wessex entered into a compact with the Sees of Winchester and Canterbury, in return for their promise of support for his son Aethelwulf’s claim to the Throne. Aethelwulf was the father of Alfred the Great. That ancient compact was a key moment in the developing relationship between Church and state that has done so much to shape to the life of this country, as together we have sought the common good—and it is to that theme of the common good that I will return later.

I turn specifically to the matter of this debate. In looking at this issue of international development, I believe we must pay proper attention to two cardinal principles: internationalism and localism. It is vital that, as a country, we take an internationalist approach to international development. Global problems, including climate change, require global solutions, and nothing less will do. But, in all that, the local must not be lost. Effective development must always have purchase at the grass roots in specific contexts and communities, or it will be simply unsustainable.

In my clerical career, I have been immensely privileged to have been given both a broad international perspective and unique insights into the local and particular. I have led a church in a rather unremarked but wonderful corner of south London, and I have led another at the heart of Paris, exercising ministry at the crossroads of the world. I have led a global mission agency deeply committed to pursuing a global agenda through the context of the very local. I have been Bishop of Truro in Cornwall, a place with great international reach historically and with its own much-prized local culture.

I now serve in Winchester, a diocese that can lay good claim to having shaped the wider world—think of Bishop Lancelot Andrewes overseeing the compilation of the authorised version of the Bible and its global impact. But it is also a diocese made up of truly distinctive local places: Winchester, England’s ancient capital; the great port city of Southampton; the burgeoning boroughs of Bournemouth, Basingstoke and Christchurch; our historic market towns; and innumerable picture-perfect Hampshire villages. Each is a place of value in its own right but also part of a greater whole.

This theme of globalism and localism has particular relevance when we look at one theme critical to international development: freedom of religion or belief—FoRB. It is critical because the denial of FoRB is inimical to effective community development. As Bishop of Truro, at the invitation of the then Foreign Secretary, the Member for South West Surrey, the right honourable Jeremy Hunt MP, I authored a report on FoRB, the recommendations of which became and remain government policy. I am hugely grateful to my friend in the other place, the Member for Congleton, Fiona Bruce MP, who holds the role of Prime Minister’s special envoy for FoRB, for her dogged commitment to the implementation of those recommendations, which have even led to the passing of a UN Security Council resolution on this issue for the first time.

In this global struggle for FoRB, in which the UK plays a leading role, we value both the international—this is a universal right and a global problem—and the local, in that it is minority communities that are most under threat from its denial. The denial of FoRB is a scourge on local minority communities and, therefore, on their development. Its denial can be laid squarely at the feet of both weak government and intolerant, authoritarian and nationalistic regimes that brook no dissent. This is therefore a growing global problem that requires a global response, and I am honoured to play my part, along with many others, including the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, in such a response.

It is vital that we act globally to protect the distinctive and the local, and there is a moral connection between the global struggle for FoRB and the challenge of climate change. In the end, only plural states with a heart for the common global good, rather than their own self-aggrandisement, will truly care about these issues. So action on FoRB and action on climate change spring from a common concern for the common good. In tackling both, we seek the health and welfare of the whole planet, and a common good that, in the end, can be expressed only through flourishing local communities. Promoting FoRB promotes plural, prosperous and stable states, contributing significantly to international development and global security.

In tackling climate change and FoRB together, we must stand against those regimes that are more concerned with preserving their own power than seeking the local rights of minorities and the global good of the whole planet. I urge His Majesty’s Government to maintain a broad international perspective and to value and treasure the local and particular, both things which make this world so rich and so blessed a place.

Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench 4:35, 11 January 2024

My Lords, it is a great privilege to be able to respond to the maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester and, on behalf of the whole House, to welcome him to his place. He is greatly admired here and, as a former Africa Minister told me only this morning, in another place too.

The right reverend Prelate has reminded us of the historical significance of his diocese. Christianity here is said to have had its origins in that part of the world, thanks to the efforts of St Birinus, the Apostle to the West Saxons. Like the right reverend Prelate, Birinus was a missionary, arriving just 37 years after Augustine came to Kent. He was also a predecessor of another saint in Winchester, St Swithin. With such illustrious forebears, we will expect great things of the right reverend Prelate.

The story of the right reverend Prelate’s diocese underscores the long-standing relationship between Church and state, the spiritual and temporal. In referring to Lancelot Andrewes, and his central role in the translation of the King James version of the Bible, the right reverend Prelate reminds us of its hugely influential role in shaping our culture, as well as that of the whole, wider English-speaking world.

The Bible was the right reverend Prelate’s lodestar while serving as executive leader of the Church Mission Society and in his parochial work in London and Paris, following his ordination in 1989, five years after he married Ruth, his wife. In 2018, following his appointment to Truro, and beyond his greatly admired diocesan work in Cornwall, he was asked to put his international experience to good effect. The Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, as we heard, asked him to prepare a report on global persecution. It followed a Times leader, which referred to persecution of Christians and said:

“We cannot be spectators at this carnage”.

Yet silent observers we have too often been.

Open Doors says that more than 360 million Christians suffer at least high levels of persecution and discrimination for their faith, that in 1993 Christians faced high to extreme levels of persecution in 40 countries, and that that number had nearly doubled to 76 countries by 2023. When the right reverend Prelate launched his report in 2019, he said:

“If one minority is on the receiving end of 80% of religiously motivated discrimination, it is simply not just that they should receive so little attention … however, this must also be about being sensitive to discrimination and persecution of all minorities”.

In that landmark report, the right reverend Prelate painstakingly set out 22 recommendations, which sought to restore the importance of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—the right to believe, not to believe or to change your belief. In giving FoRB—freedom of religion or belief—far greater definition, the Truro review was hugely influential, and I have no doubt that, in joining your Lordships’ House, the right reverend Prelate will bring an authoritative and greatly welcome voice to our proceedings and that from all our Benches we will wish him well in his time here.

Before concluding in the brief moments I have left to speak, I remind the Minister that the full implementation of the Truro recommendations is a manifesto commitment of His Majesty’s Government. I hope that he will look at the link between the implementation of recommendation 7 of the Truro report and genocide and, in the light of what we have seen in Sudan, Tigray, the Middle East and Ukraine, that he will agree to meet me to discuss my Private Member’s Bill on genocide determination and examine the impact of atrocity crimes, especially on developing nations. I would like him to look particularly at the situation in Nigeria and the absurd suggestion—made, I might add, by a Head of State—that climate change was the cause of 40 people being murdered in a church in Ondo on Pentecost Sunday. That claim was strongly contested here, at a meeting I chaired for the Bishop of Ondo, Jude Arogundade.

Climate change and cuts to aid certainly impact development, but so does jihadist ideology, and we should not be frightened in saying so. On Red Wednesday, just a few weeks ago in November, I met Mr and Mrs Attah, two of the Ondo victims. Margaret’s legs were so badly damaged by the jihadist bomb that they had to be amputated. The couple wanted to know—and so do I—why no one has been brought to justice in this culture of impunity. Who is being brought to justice for the further 200 killings in Plateau State in Nigeria just two weeks ago, over Christmas? Why is Leah Sharibu—whose case I have raised regularly in your Lordships’ House and whose mother, Rebecca, I escorted to the Palace of Westminster so that she could meet Members of both Houses—still in captivity, having been abducted, raped and forcibly converted at the age of 14?

Persecution and conflict are major drivers in the displacement of 110 million people worldwide. These drivers destroy lives, such as those that I have just mentioned, and set back development. Conversely—and here I will finish—robust academic work demonstrates that, where persecution is contested and Article 18 freedoms are upheld, those countries are the most stable, the most harmonious and the most prosperous. I hope that the Minister, who I know takes a deep interest in some of these subjects, agrees and will commission more work to push policies based on the Truro recommendations higher up the political, diplomatic and development agenda.

The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, who has done so much on these issues over so many years, deserves and has our thanks for instigating today’s timely and important debate.

Photo of Lord Harlech Lord Harlech Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, this has been an incredibly thoughtful and incisive debate, but I gently remind the House that it is time-limited. We want to hear everyone’s contributions and have time for the Minister to answer the questions raised. I therefore make a plea: if all noble Lords could stick to time, that would be marvellous.

Photo of Lord Hannan of Kingsclere Lord Hannan of Kingsclere Conservative 4:41, 11 January 2024

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, reminded us that 2024 is an election year, and not only for us. More human beings will have the opportunity to cast a ballot in this year than ever before in history. That must be good news, not only intrinsically in itself but from the perspective of climate change.

One of the odd things, although it is rarely noted, is that the democracies are the countries taking the lead in global collaboration. You might think, from first principles, that this would be one of those areas where you could have a benign dictator doing things that would be unpalatable to the electorate, but that is not how it has worked out. Our country has become the first to halve its carbon emissions from the peak—the only developed country so far to do so. We do not see any equivalent action from Russia, China and so on. The spread of democracy, as well as being a good thing for the people of those countries, is good from our perspectives.

However, when we drill down and look at some of those elections, we see that the picture looks rather different. We had the first big election last weekend, in a country with a big population: Bangladesh—I think it has something like 170 million inhabitants. The UK, the US and the European Union have all said, with reason, that it was not a free and fair election. That is unsurprising: the opposition party there, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which used to alternate with the Awami League in office, has been broken and exiled and its leaders chained. We have the next big election coming up on 8 February in Pakistan, where it is a similar story: Imran Khan has been imprisoned and the PTI party has been broken, with its leaders arrested or exiled. We are moving towards a situation where more and more countries are voting but it is in a performative and perfunctory way. The chief benefit of democracy—namely, the ability peacefully to change your leaders—is being lost.

This ties into our aid policy. Bangladesh and Pakistan were immense recipients of our aid, particularly under the coalition starting with David Cameron’s premiership. There have obviously been cuts since Covid but, just before Covid, Pakistan was getting £330 million-plus a year and Bangladesh more than £200 million. Yet that massive increase in aid coincided with a decline in democracy—they were imperfect democracies, but they are plainly in a worse place now than when that aid money began. I am not saying, by the way, that that aid was useless—it may have had all sorts of good effects in promoting girls’ education or whatever—but it did not correlate with any democratisation.

If we are not using aid as a way of spreading democracy, and therefore getting all these other public goods that we get from it, what can we do? Democracy has been in retreat, globally, probably since the financial crisis. We can measure it in all sorts of ways. The Economist Intelligence Unit has a thing called the Democracy Index. It was expecting a bounce-back in 2022 as the Covid restrictions were lifted, but did not find one: there has been a continued loss of freedom. The International IDEA found the same thing: it saw six consecutive years of decline in democracy. Freedom House says there have been 17 continuous years in which more countries have ceased to be free than have become free. This correlates to the increase in autarchy and self-reliance, as its defenders would call it, since the banking crisis. Just like between the two wars, protectionism and authoritarianism go hand in hand. Indeed, autocrats are as much products as sponsors of economic protectionism.

What can we do if not use our aid budget? I put it to noble Lords that one thing we can do is recall our historic mission as a nation and try to spread globalisation as an instrument of poverty alleviation. It was the single most effective way of doing that. After the Second World War, we saw billions of people lifted out of poverty as their countries ceased to be autarchic and joined global market systems.

This is a much harder argument to make now than it was pre-Covid. We have mercantilist and protectionist policies in Washington, Brussels and Beijing—indeed, sometimes it is being done in the name supposedly of fighting climate change, as with the absurdly misnamed Inflation Reduction Act in the US. If our country has one historic dream and task, it is to raise our eyes above that and to be the place that drags the rest of the world to greater prosperity. It was the elimination of obstacles to trade that lifted this nation to a pinnacle of unprecedented wealth and happiness in the 19th century. It is our task once again, now that we have the opportunity, to do the same, and to lift the rest of humanity with us.

Photo of Lord Oates Lord Oates Liberal Democrat 4:47, 11 January 2024

My Lords, I join others in thanking my noble friend Lady Northover for initiating this debate, and I congratulate the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester on his eloquent maiden speech. I declare my interests as chief executive of United Against Malnutrition and Hunger, co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Africa, and council member of the Royal African Society.

As we have heard, over the past three decades the world has made significant progress in tackling some of the core challenges of development, and the UK’s contribution to that success has been significant. The Department for International Development, now sadly dismantled, was a beacon around the world. The expertise of our academic, scientific and research institutions, and the hands-on knowledge and experience of UK-based INGOs, helped the UK deliver real and lasting impact as part of a sustained global effort to bring about change and progress. That effort brought results. Over recent decades, the proportion of people who were undernourished almost halved. The share of the global population living in extreme poverty fell even more dramatically, from 47% in developing regions to 14%. The incidence rate of TB fell by 17% and of malaria by 40%. The proportion of the world’s population without sustainable access to safe drinking water more than halved. At a global level, gender disparity in education was eliminated.

These are huge successes, and I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, that at this time, when the future can seem so bleak and progress can appear almost impossible, it is particularly important that we celebrate this success as a reminder of what we can achieve as a global community if we have the will to do so. Sadly, however, some of these successes have gone into reverse in recent years. As Action Against Hunger pointed out in its excellent briefing, the number of people facing extreme food insecurity is rising, with millions of children dying unnecessarily every year from malnutrition-related causes.

Across the sustainable development goals, progress is well off-track and in several cases has gone into reverse. As the UN Secretary-General has warned:

“Unless we act now, the 2030 Agenda will become an epitaph for a world that might have been”.

The climate crisis is only exacerbating these challenges and, cruelly, the people on the front line are those who have contributed least to climate change and are most vulnerable to its effects.

The facts are stark. The World Bank estimates that climate change could push an additional 100 million people below the poverty line by 2030. The Pentagon describes climate change as a threat multiplier and a key driver of fragility. Stanford University research estimates that climate change has increased economic inequality between developed and developing economies by 25% since 1960. Yet no country in the rich world is acting with anything like the urgency the situation demands. Sadly, the UK’s record in the vanguard of action has now been put at risk as a result of decisions by the current Government in the past year.

The Africa APPG’s inquiry into just energy transition, which is being conducted in conjunction with the Royal African Society and Oxfam, has highlighted the risk of a dangerous disconnect between the global north and global south on what justice means in this context and how it can be delivered. The inquiry has also shown that if we are prepared to work in genuine partnership with the continent, a huge opportunity exists dramatically to increase energy access across Africa, spurring sustainable economic development, while reducing carbon emissions and the health impacts of burning carbon fuels.

For a long time, we talked as if climate change was something that might happen if we did not sort things out soon, but it is not that. It is happening now and has been for a long time. We all know the story about the frog which, if put in a pot of cold water and gently heated to boiling point, will not jump out. Some people say that experiments show that a frog is not so stupid, and these prove the story is not true, but they are wrong. The story is true: it is just that it is not about frogs; it is about humans. The water is literally heating up in the oceans around us, yet we continue to throw fuel on the fire. Now is the time when we have to choose whether to wake up to our responsibilities to the world and to ourselves, and to act with the urgency the moment demands, or to continue to slumber and eventually boil.

Photo of Baroness Chakrabarti Baroness Chakrabarti Labour 4:52, 11 January 2024

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Oates, and I join in the tributes to the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, for bringing this vital debate. I also congratulate the right reverend Prelate on a wonderful maiden speech.

What we are now doing to the world by degrading the land surface, polluting the waters and adding greenhouse gases to the air at an unprecedented rate, is new in the experience of the earth. It is mankind and his activities which are changing the environment of our planet in damaging and dangerous ways. We are seeing a vast increase in the amount of carbon dioxide reaching the atmosphere. The annual increase is 3 billion tonnes, and half the carbon emitted since the Industrial Revolution remains in the atmosphere. At the same time, we are seeing the destruction on a vast scale of tropical rainforests, which are uniquely able to remove carbon dioxide from the air.

We should always remember that free markets are a means to an end. They would defeat their object if, by their output, they did more damage to the quality of life through pollution than the wellbeing they achieve by the production of goods and services. Each country has to contribute, and industrialised countries must contribute more to help those that are not.

A framework is not enough. It will need to be filled out with specific undertakings and protocols, in diplomatic language, on the different aspects of climate change. These protocols must be binding and there must be effective regimes to supervise and monitor their application; otherwise, nations that accept and abide by environmental agreements, thus adding to their industrial costs, will lose out to those that do not.

These are not my words, though I cite them in a forthcoming book. They are not even borrowed from the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, or the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, who is to follow me, or David Attenborough, or Greta Thunberg. Whose words are these? For noble Lords who do not immediately recognise them, the clue was in the earlier speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley. I am citing Lady Thatcher’s 1989 address to the UN General Assembly. Daily Mail, please take note.

The problem with Paris is that it contains no individual binding obligations, let alone sanctions relating to the meeting of targets. The regime, as we have heard, lacks a sense of international or historical fairness, given that some of the greatest industrial polluters since 1850 are both most the enriched and least affected by the damage.

Alongside other proposals that have been put to the Minister—and I guess to all five of the warring families of the party opposite—I urge a move back towards internationalism and improving the rules-based order, not just in relation to human rights, as has been advocated by the right reverend Prelate and possibly even the noble Lord opposite, but climate security. We need more internationalism and less unilateralism.

People say that Lady Thatcher responded in that way because she was a trained chemist, and I have no doubt that that was part of the special contribution. However, she was also a lawyer. Lawyers are denigrated by some current Conservatives, but I believe that those two sides of her education inspired that very important speech: science and law. We need both to deal with this crisis.

Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green 4:56, 11 January 2024

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, who made a very powerful point about externalised costs. Currently, the few in many sectors—the few giant multi-national companies—are making a financial killing, while the rest of the human and non-human world pay.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, for securing this debate and introducing it so clearly. Like many, I am tempted to talk about the inadequate, non-manifesto compliant level of UK official development assistance. The fact is that we would all be more secure in a more stable world if we were spending more on ODA. The Green Party says double the Government’s current level, and that should be applied to real development assistance, not housing refugees in the UK—as much as we should be doing that as well.

After the year we have just had, the warmest in probably 100,000 years, I was tempted, like the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, to focus on the extreme urgency of climate mitigation. That is roughly half the time our species has been on this planet, and this is the warmest year. It is certainly, by a substantial margin, the hottest since records began. I was also tempted, as Debt Justice has been doing, to focus on the way the global debt crisis is preventing climate action, particularly in the 54 hardest-hit global south nations. Global south countries are currently spending 12.5 times more on debt repayment than they are on climate adaptation.

The Minister might be surprised to hear that in the short time available to me, I am going to focus instead on some money that the Government could stop spending on official development assistance, money that might instead be redirected towards supporting women and girls’ grassroots organisations as a foundation of a feminist foreign policy, for example. This area is of particular interest to the Minister: agriculture. I am relying in part on a briefing from Compassion in World Farming and on some excellent research for which I credit the House of Lords Library, which conducted it for me at speed. Compassion in World Farming, as the name suggests, is focused on the well-being and welfare of non-human animals. It points to an independent review for the FCDO that suggests that the department should

“work through its programmes, with the Governments in programmes’ countries of operation, to establish agreed levels of animal welfare”.

My direct question to the Minister is: will the Government be doing that?

However, we are focused today on the climate emergency, and with that in mind I want to look in particular at the activities of the International Finance Corporation, which is a member of the World Bank Group. Andrew Mitchell MP, in his role as Minister of State for Development, is a member of the IFC board of governors. The IFC has in recent years funded private sector projects including: a multi-storey pig farm in China; industrial pig production in Vietnam; industrial broiler chicken production in Uganda; and industrial pig and chicken production in Ecuador. Will the UK use its influence to stop that damaging funding of factory farming? As I often reflect in your Lordships’ House, it is a huge threat in terms of antimicrobial resistance and is wasting food that could be fed to people, instead feeding it to animals which convert cereals and plant proteins very inefficiently into meat and milk. Globally, 40% of crop calories are used to feed animals when they could be feeding people.

Of course, these factory-farming installations also contribute to massive deforestation and other environmental damage, creating manure as a major pollutant, even though, if we had small-scale agricultural agro-ecological regenerative approaches, it could be a fertiliser on arable crops. Many studies have shown that will not be possible to meet the Paris targets without a reduction in global livestock production. Therefore, will the Government do something—take action to seek to persuade the IFC to stop this damaging funding—and, furthermore, commit to ensuring that no direct UK aid goes to factory farming?

On agriculture more broadly, I am sure the noble Lord is aware of the Independent Commission for Aid Impact paper, UK Aid to Agriculture in a Time of Climate Change, from June 2023. The Government then, in responding to that, committed to

“ensure all new UK bilateral aid spending does no harm to nature” by ensuring that it is all “nature positive”. That was a commitment in the international development strategy of May 2022. Can the Minister tell me whether that is true of everything that was funded in 2023?

Finally, we have to tie all this together: the welfare of our natural world, of our climate and of people. Food security is one of the crushingly important issues of the coming age. The Government themselves, at least sometimes, acknowledge that small-scale agro-ecological production is crucial both to improving nutritional standards and to ensuring that we live within the Paris Agreement. Are the Government ensuring that they stop funding both industrial agriculture of all forms, and that they are funding the agro-ecological small-scale production the world needs?

Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative 5:03, 11 January 2024

My Lords, we need developing countries to join us in the progress towards net zero, but we also want them to develop. I am delighted to see that this conundrum was dealt with at COP 28 and that it was widely recognised and supported that developing countries need what was referred to as transition fuel. In other words, we need to accept that they will burn more hydrocarbons for some considerable time in order to develop, and therefore they will go through a process of development, at the same time moving towards net zero as they become rich enough to afford that.

That is a process that we, through our international development operations, really ought to be supporting. We have the expertise in this country—we have some great consulting engineering companies, such as Buro Happold and others—and there is an awful lot to be gained from collaboration. Although each country will be different, there will be a lot of similarities. Helping countries through this process in a co-ordinated way is something that we ought to be really good at, and by being involved in that we will earn ourselves respect and credit in the help we are giving to countries that wish to develop. However, if we are to go through that process, we have to be truthful. We have to talk about real costs and real performance; we cannot afford the comfortable myths that we indulge in ourselves. These are countries at the margin where every bit matters.

To pick up on what the noble Baronesses, Lady Chakrabarti and Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, have said, we need to look at systems, not individual bits. You must look at the whole picture, and we have not been doing that. I asked the Library for help on three particular aspects of that. It is widely said that cows cause climate change, but there is no scientific demonstration of that. They are just part of the carbon cycle. Methane and carbon dioxide are emitted all over that cycle. If you removed the cows, something else would be doing the emitting. You have to look at the whole system: cows against what?

There is a lot of argument that aeroplanes are a lot more CO2 intensive than, say, railways, but they are much cheaper. There is no analysis that the House of Lords Library can find that looks at the system and reconciles the fact that trains are more expensive with their total CO2 emission, which is being paid for by those fares, and compares that with a similar analysis for planes.

On microplastics, which people get very exercised about, there is no science that says they are harmful. What is obvious is that they are sequestering carbon dioxide. They are burying carbon for a long time. They may be untidy, but that is what they are doing. There is nothing to show that they are harmful to any biological system. They are present, but there is no science to show they are harmful. We can say “Oh, we don’t like it, and we won’t tolerate this stuff”, but you cannot impose those additional costs if you are doing something in developing countries.

We should also be looking at positive things we can do to help. It is clear that there is a new ocean developing in east Africa. We know from the Icelandic experience that this is potentially a huge source of geothermal energy. We really ought to be helping the countries along the Rift Valley to benefit from that in a co-ordinated way to help them reap that source of CO2-free energy. In other areas too, we ought to be looking at how we can bring the technology which countries will need to go carbon neutral to them in a co-ordinated, supportive way and to use all our accumulated expertise and make it available to them through our international development efforts.

Photo of The Earl of Sandwich The Earl of Sandwich Crossbench 5:07, 11 January 2024

My Lords, it is an extremely hard act to follow the noble Lord, so I shall not. My thanks today go to the noble Baroness, who over many years has been a stalwart of international development in this House and, more recently, on the effects of climate change in developing countries. My particular interest is in Sudan and South Sudan, because of the continuing conflict and genocide there. I am especially concerned about migration, like my noble friend Lord Alton, and the limits of international aid in that region.

Climate change is one of the drivers of migration and therefore concerns us directly as we attempt to reduce the numbers coming across the channel. The Government have got wound up over these numbers, and in my view are not doing enough to slow the original causes through our aid programme, to address the trafficking problem in north Africa as a whole, or to publicise what we and other European countries are already doing. The result is that the country’s concerns seem to be entirely insular, concerned with our backlog and lack of hospitality, and we are even donating some of our limited aid to the Home Office. We have, on the other hand, pioneered the international response to climate change, as we have heard, and our efforts towards climate finance need more recognition and evaluation. I will come back to that.

The situation in north Africa and the Sahel has become more chaotic. Libya in particular is now one of the main sources of trafficking via a string of unsafe detention centres, despite EU funding. France is withdrawing from the Sahel countries where Russia or the Wagner Group have provoked changes of government. The UK’s involvement in the Sahel is minimal, yet the instability and threats from jihadi groups there are bound to rebound on us, as on other European countries. We need to pay more attention to those areas.

It is often impossible to separate climate change from conflict, since the two go together. A well-known example is the long border dispute at Abyei, half way between Sudan and South Sudan, where pastoral interests have clashed with settled farming for years, even within the Dinka people. Exceptional floods and droughts have recently exacerbated this conflict, and now civil war in the north has caused thousands to flee south into that area. International intervention has failed and will probably fail again, but—I note the experience of our new Member on the Benches of the right reverend Prelates—civil society, especially local churches, is struggling to resolve it. The Minister may confirm that the FCDO has been behind some of these efforts. Christian Aid, for example, helps church leaders in Sudan to represent grass-roots voices in advocating for peace and to lay the groundwork for reconciliation. I live in the Salisbury diocese, which is also supporting this effort through its Sudan partnership. Other NGOs work on conflict prevention.

That leads me back to climate change. The ICF, our international climate finance programme, is currently spending £5.8 billion over a five-year period. I am glad that ICAI, the watchdog, has been following the ICF’s progress quite closely and positively. It is going to report to Parliament soon in a rapid review; in particular, it will explain how the ICF contributes to enabling global climate action. It may help to sort out the confusion in my mind about the use of our aid programme. For example, one of the FCDO’s oldest projects is the productive safety net programme in Ethiopia. Much of it is being recategorised, yet that will do nothing to improve Ethiopia’s global response. Is that really the intention? Can the Minister explain this when she answers the similar criticism from the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone?

I have no time to talk about Sudan. I say to the splendid remarks from the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, that we must keep trying. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Hannan, that we are doing soft power.

Photo of Baroness Sheehan Baroness Sheehan Liberal Democrat 5:13, 11 January 2024

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Earl; I always find myself in agreement with him. I pay tribute to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester for his commendable maiden speech. I add my thanks to my noble friend Lady Northover for securing this important and timely debate. Time is short so I am grateful to her for laying out the issues so comprehensively. I associate myself with her remarks, in particular her rebuke—and those of other noble Lords—of the Government for playing fast and loose with the reduced ODA budget by shamefully reclassifying spends and redefining climate finance. In effect, they are robbing Peter to pay Paul.

I will start with some facts. They are mostly taken from NASA’s website; I hope that they will provide context for my call to our Government to stop sending mixed messages. First, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is now 420 parts per million, an increase of 50% since the start of the Industrial Revolution. Secondly, the rate of global warming since the mid-20th century is unprecedented over millennia and accelerating. Thirdly, global emissions from fossil fuels reached record levels again in 2023. Fourthly, last year saw an unexpected and unexplained spike in global sea temperatures, especially around the North Atlantic and the seas around the UK, and last year was the warmest year on record globally. I will stop there, but there is plenty more hard evidence pointing to accelerating climate change, maybe more aptly referred to now as climate breakdown.

We are in the last chance saloon. The time for action to save our planet is now. This is the decade in which we must act. It is also time to equip developing countries to join the fight against increasing emissions, but they need resources to do so. Some, such as the small island developing states, are fighting for their very survival. COP 28 gave them early hope, when agreement was reached on the loss and damage fund. However, the end goal of reaching agreement to phase out fossil fuels was watered down by the weaker agreement to transition away from fossil fuels. Their disappointment was bitter. They were in effect being asked to sign their death warrant. Will the Minister work to make the loss and damage fund meaningful, so that countries are not left saddled with crippling debt and existing funds are not used to fill it?

I will say a few words about the impact of climate breakdown on global health. As a trustee of the Malaria Consortium, I will use malaria as an example. The fact is that wetter, warmer conditions mean that malaria is on the increase. For example, catastrophic flooding in Pakistan in 2022 led to a fivefold increase in malaria cases, and WHO’s World Malaria Report 2023 tells us that cases worldwide have risen to 249 million. With the two vaccines now at our disposal, this terrible disease, which has been with us for millennia, could be consigned to history, but in 2022 we reduced our contribution to the Global Fund’s seventh replenishment by a third, from £1.48 billion to just £1 billion. As the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley, pointed out, the Global Fund leads the charge against the scourges of TB, HIV/AIDS and malaria. What does our reduction to that fund signal to the world? Does the Minister agree that our Government must do much more to support the eradication of this dreadful disease, which is now within our grasp? It would be nothing short of enlightened self-interest. The West is fast becoming a hospitable climate for the malaria mosquito and the mosquito that spreads dengue fever.

In conclusion, the mixed signals that I talked about at the start of my contribution must stop. We cannot mouth support for the loss and damage fund and then reduce our historical support for the Global Fund. Nor can we welcome the COP 28 text calling for countries to transition away from fossil fuels and give the go-ahead for a new coal mine in Cumbria, as well as put into legislation the farcical offshore petroleum Bill for an annual round of new oil and gas licences. I put to the Minister that we must behave more honourably if we are to continue to claim credibility as a leader in climate action.

Photo of The Bishop of Norwich The Bishop of Norwich Bishop 5:19, 11 January 2024

My Lords, I too express my appreciation to the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, for securing this debate and congratulate my right reverend friend the Bishop of Winchester on his informative and passionate maiden speech.

The UK rightly has a distinguished record in overseas development aid and I look forward to the urgent return to the Government’s manifesto commitment of 0.7% of GDP being spent on it. There also needs to be transparency in new funding announcements about whether the funding is new money or comes from salami-slicing existing programmes. The priorities for climate change aid must be focused on three areas: mitigation, resilience and emergency response. I will look briefly at each in turn.

The first is working both locally and globally to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. There is a myriad of small projects, often led by faith communities, to protect land, restore habitats, nurture soil and plant trees. Faith actors are accessible as they are in every community. They are affordable, due to their existing structures and volunteers, and they are acceptable due to being trusted partners on the ground in local cultures. But they also connect globally, giving a bigger picture and attracting solidarity from faith communities around the world. Welling up inspiration from their faith, they are great advocates for the care of creation.

One such initiative—I declare an interest here as I am much involved in it—is the global Anglican Communion Forest, which seeks to conserve, protect and restore ecosystems across the world. Last year, the Anglican Church in Tanzania planted more than 300,000 trees across 69 villages. The Anglican Church in Kenya planted 2 million trees and is planning to plant 15 million more by 2026. The Anglican Church in Mozambique is involved in restoring mangrove swamps, which both protect coastlines and enhance biodiversity. These small projects inspire people to go further to protect and enhance their environment. Will the Government work more closely with faith communities, which are so often on the front line of the delivery of ecosystem services that absorb carbon as well as on the front line of the adverse impacts of climate change?

Secondly, we need to build resilience to the impact of more extreme weather events caused by climate change. As your Lordships have already heard, last year was the hottest on record and it is no coincidence that floods, cyclones, droughts, et cetera, killed or displaced millions of people. If we do not build resilience, we will see increasing health inequalities, poverty, conflicts and migration, due to the impact of climate change on people’s lives, resources and safety. The UNHCR estimates that 70% of all refugees from conflict come from countries that are highly vulnerable to climate. Aid in this area is money well spent for the future. I express my gratitude to the Government for, on various occasions, providing match-funding opportunities to lever in further faith-based support for the world’s poorest communities.

Finally, we need to respond really well by providing the right emergency aid to affected nations. The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, mentioned Christian Aid; a new analysis by it said that the 20 costliest extreme climate disasters in 2023 revealed a

“global postcode lottery stacked against the poor”, where the relative economic impact of disasters varies considerably across countries. In the world’s economically poorest nations, few households have any financial buffer to help them bounce back after a disaster. As well as more deaths in the immediate aftermath, this means that recovery is often slower and more unequal, with many people pushed further into poverty as their assets have been destroyed or damaged.

Part of our moral duty as a nation is to reach out to our global neighbours. Part of this can be seen in the commitment we might make to the loss and damage fund, so will the Minister make its operationalisation an urgent priority? This is the task for our generation in this decade.

Photo of Viscount Chandos Viscount Chandos Labour 5:24, 11 January 2024

My Lords, as the last Back-Bench speaker, I will try to be brief and avoid repetition as far as possible, let alone hesitation or deviation. I thank and pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, not just for her compelling introduction but, as the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said, for her long record in this field in and out of government. I will focus my remarks exclusively on the role that sustainable media plays in international development generally, particularly in relation to climate change. I declare my interest, as included in the register, as chair of the not-for-profit Thomson Foundation, which, along with its sister organisation in Berlin, promotes sustainable media development and trains journalists in countries with either low incomes or low press freedom, or both.

Six weeks ago, I attended the annual awards ceremony of the Foreign Press Association, addressed this year by Her Majesty the Queen. One of the award winners was the documentary film “Under Poisoned Skies”, directed by Jess Kelly for BBC News Arabic, which revealed the devastating effect on the health of local people caused by gas flaring in the giant oil fields of southern Iraq, over and above the deeply damaging level of emissions. So far, this film has had neither the ratings nor the political impact of “Mr Bates vs The Post Office”, but it demonstrates vividly the role of the media in raising awareness and prospectively spurring action against climate change and related threats to the health of people in developing nations.

“Under Poisoned Skies” was financed by the BBC World Service, whose funding since 2014 has been predominantly from the licence fee rather than the then FCO, following the ill-judged settlement between the BBC and the Government, which paralleled the later raids on the international development budget described by the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, and other speakers.

Policies to combat climate change cannot be imposed on developing nations: they must emerge with the wholehearted consent of those countries’ people, based on accurate and truthful information. That is why the Thomson Foundation strongly believes that local journalists in developing nations have a vital role to play in changing the narrative around the world’s environmental breakdown and climate change. The foundation, funded inter alia by the FCDO, the British Council and, through Berlin, the EU, provides online e-learning courses and webinars and holds competitions for environmental journalists and workshops in countries including Lesotho and Ethiopia.

Media developments straddled the FCO and DfID when they were separate departments, so if there were any positive arguments for their merger, as opposed to a continuation of the cross-departmental co-operation described by the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, this might have been one. It is therefore disappointing that November’s White Paper, welcome as it is in other ways, made no attempt to capitalise on the merged department by including any reference to the vital role that strong and free media plays in achieving international development objectives. Will the Minister urge his colleagues in the FCDO to incorporate the promotion of sustainable media as a priority in the international development policy that I hope will emerge from the White Paper?

Photo of Lord Purvis of Tweed Lord Purvis of Tweed Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (International Trade), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (International Development), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 5:29, 11 January 2024

My Lords, the House welcomed the maiden speech, as I do, and recognised, rightly, the exceptional introduction of this debate by my noble friend Lady Northover. I pay tribute to her distinguished role as a DfID Minister and for raising the associated issues with such consistency in this House. Her role as a DfID Minister and her contributions are one example of why I think the case is very strong for there to be an independent development department again—not one that simply will recreate DfID but, in my mind, an independent development department for global transition, which is focused on the issues we have been debating today, and one where the UK would be seen as a dependable, predictable and reliable leader, but also a partner when countries are grappling with those challenges of transition towards zero poverty and also on climate.

This is traditionally the week when we wish Members a happy new year. For many people around the world, it is hell on earth they see—in Sudan, with the ongoing conflict there, and in Palestine, where women and children are bearing the brunt of conflict. If you add the climate emergency, which impacts disproportionately on women and children, particularly the newborn and the most elderly and frail, this is not a happy new year for those people.

During the Christmas break, just before Christmas, I was in Nairobi with Sudanese civilians in the Takadum programme, who are seeking an end to the conflict in Sudan, which has caused the greatest humanitarian crisis on the planet at the moment. I returned this morning from Malawi, a country which is one of the most vulnerable to the climate crisis. I visited the parliament yesterday, and MPs; the UK has recognised that it is a priority country. The FCDO website says that

“Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world and ranks 171 out of 189 in the Human Development Index, with 70% of the population below the ($1.90) poverty line” and is

“vulnerable to climatic shocks and demographic challenges”.

The UK supported Malawi in 2018-19 with £82 million. This year, that is now £23 million. The UK response to one of the most desperately needy and vulnerable countries in the world is to give support that is less than a third of what it was before, and that is not estimated even to grow to more than £28 million in 2027.

With regard to climate, my noble friend Lady Northover welcomed the fact that the Minister responding has a dual portfolio, with environment and also FCDO, because she raised the need where the UK has offered practical support and transition advice for many of those advisers that have been so welcomed working with other countries. The Minister will know the Independent Commission for Aid Impact, in its review on aid and agriculture, found that we now have cut the experts for agricultural advice by 25%. That means that countries are less equipped, because there are fewer UK advisers working with them with regard to climate transition and agriculture.

On climate, no doubt the Minister will refer to the £100 million of UK funding announced at COP 28; I am sure that is in his contribution. He will cite the £18 million for an innovative new programme to adapt and strengthen health systems. I suspect what he will not say is that the cuts for neglected tropical diseases and cuts in health systems made prior to that included a 95% cut for neglected tropical diseases and health systems, where the UK had led a global flagship programme on transition and climate. We know that one of the impacts of climate change is the increase in disease and those debilitating conditions which the UK has cut aid on, so there is little point in issuing press releases announcing £100 million extra, where just a few months before, £150 million had been cut from health systems.

Taking us for fools is one of the more wearisome policies of this Government. Deliberately misleading statements on development have become a bit of an art form. For example, restoring the legal requirement of 0.7% of GNI on ODA “when the fiscal circumstances allow”, a position now depressingly adopted by the Labour Party too it seems, is misleading because the fiscal tests were designed never to be met. Unique across all departmental expenditure, a distinct set of fiscal tests was put in place, but the Government hit a bit of a snag. When they announced the fiscal tests in July 2021, the Chancellor said, in a Written Ministerial Statement, that

“the Government commit to spending 0.7% of GNI on ODA when the independent Office for Budget Responsibility’s fiscal forecast confirms that, on a sustainable basis, we are not borrowing for day-to-day spending and underlying debt is falling”.—[Official Report, Commons, 12/7/21; col. 3WS.]

In March 2022, page 129 of the OBR’s Economic and Fiscal Outlook said:

“At this forecast, the current budget reaches surplus and underlying debt falls from 2023-24”.

The Government did not expect the fiscal tests to be met, but they were, so what did they do? They changed the tests. We are now in a situation where it is very hard to believe the Government when they say that they are committed to restoring 0.7% when they set tests to be judged by an independent body and, when those tests are met, they simply change the rules.

It is suspicious, because we also might see some of that with regard to the commitments to international climate finance. The Minister no doubt will say that we are committed to £11.6 billion on international climate finance. He is nodding, and I am looking forward to hearing it, as it means he is able to answer the question I am about to ask him. The commitment given by the Government on international climate finance seems to have a fair amount of double-counting in it. From what was announced, we understood it to be £11.6 billion of new money. What we now understand is that the Government are double-counting humanitarian assistance on climate finance of £542 million and double-counting commitments to multilateral development banks of £920 million, and £159 million which has been committed through BII, which has been referred to, is seemingly included within the £11.6 billion. The Minister is clearly going to be saying something about the commitment, and I am sure the Box will be able to give him information that all of that £11.6 billion is new money, not that which had been committed beforehand.

We are now in a situation where the UK is not a reliable partner, is not predictable and is not dependable. My party favours an immediate restoration of 0.7%, because it is in our interests and the world’s interests. We would establish an independent department for international development and we would put the sustainable development goals, particularly the elimination of absolute poverty and climate transition, at the heart of international development spending. We would immediately restore full funding for programmes supporting women, girls and equality.

I close with what the noble Lord, Lord Hannan, referred to: the record number of people around the world voting this year. There is likely to be a fair number of people in this country doing so, and many of them will be looking at parties’ commitments on international development. Boris Johnson promised he would not get rid of DfID and then shortly got rid of it. Liz Truss promised to reverse the savage cuts to women and girls aid programmes and a month later reneged on it. Our current Foreign Secretary criticised the unlawful cuts to ODA, which he now defends around the Cabinet table. Boris Johnson, Liz Truss, David Cameron: why on earth would many of those people who will be casting their democratic vote trust Conservative Foreign Secretaries and aid funding ever again?

Photo of Lord Collins of Highbury Lord Collins of Highbury Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Equalities and Women's Issues), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and International Development), Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords 5:39, 11 January 2024

My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, for initiating this debate. She has a tremendous record on this subject; of course, when I first met her, she was an International Development Minister. I also congratulate the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester. We first exchanged comments at the conference on freedom of religion or belief, which I was at because that is such an important subject. It is about not only the freedom to practise religion; it is also the freedom not to have one. Countries that allow that can cherish and protect all human rights, as he said. That is why it is so important and I welcome his ongoing contribution.

At the launch of the Government’s recent White Paper on international development, Andrew Mitchell acknowledged the United Kingdom’s historic role in such development. Like the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, I welcome its future focus but we need a clear understanding about where we are heading. To have that, we also need a frank assessment of where we have been.

One of Labour’s lasting achievements had been to forge a new political consensus around development. To his credit the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, sustained that commitment as Prime Minister, keeping Britain on the path to 0.7% that Labour had set it on. But under the direction of Rishi Sunak, this Government have retreated from Britain’s commitments: cutting our development target from 0.7% to 0.5%, as we have heard, and stripping billions from vital aid programmes in the process. The speed of those cuts is what was most damaging. Without any proper planning, they caused huge damage, particularly to our credibility as a trusted partner. We also then saw delivery undermined through a bungled merger between DfID and the Foreign Office, deprioritising development, sapping morale and pushing out expertise that we had built up over so many years.

I want to give a bit of focus for hope to the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, because Labour’s foreign policy will focus on delivering security and prosperity for Britain. Our development policy will be no different by rebuilding Britain’s reputation, reasserting Britain’s partnership and, as my noble friend Lord Chandos said, developing a clear soft-power strategy. That is crucial in building the alliances needed to take on the foreign policy challenges of the 21st century and tackle the underlying causes of instability, which threaten Britain and the multilateral system.

There is an abundance of economic potential in the global South, with young populations eager to make change, and a new generation of political leadership, particularly women. They are being held back by the challenges of climate change, debt and the risks of conflict. As the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, said, it is important that in this debate we focus on debt and its direct linkage to the climate crisis. It is vital that climate finance mechanisms do not force vulnerable countries deeper into debt.

As we also heard in this debate, multilateral partnerships such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria have been critical in the progress towards the 2030 agenda and the SDGs, yet multilateral aid is projected to fall to just 25% of aid spending by 2025. We need to continue to raise awareness of the intersection between global health and climate change on the global stage, while working to improve climate resilience in healthcare systems and ensuring that climate-sensitive diseases such as malaria, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley, highlighted, are factored into health programmes. We know that malaria is a climate-sensitive disease, threatening hard-won progress in many areas.

I declare an interest as co-chair of the Nutrition for Development APPG, and I have raised in previous debates the issue of food insecurity and malnutrition. Investment in nutrition has a key multiplying effect. It plays a critical role in health, education, economic advancement and gender equality. It is fundamental, as the noble Lord, Lord Oates, said, to achieving most of the sustainable development goals. Climate change is a key threat to previous global progress on malnutrition and hunger. Changing weather patterns are leading to more frequent and severe droughts, flooding, poor crop yields, lower national content in produce and destroyed harvests. It is not only affecting people’s access to food, but the quality of food and therefore nutrition. Studies have made that absolutely clear.

Last November’s global food security summit in London—I welcomed the fact that we were engaging with others to address this issue—demonstrated the UK Government’s recognition of the importance of food security and nutrition. But we need more than just words; we need action. We need a clear understanding that we will maintain all the commitments we made at the last nutrition for growth summit in Tokyo, and that we will focus on the targets set out at that summit.

We need significant investment in climate-resilient food systems and a proper focus on food and security systems. That is why what was decided at COP 28 was so important. There, Britain took an important step by committing £100 million to support communities particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. I hope the noble Lord can focus on the questions about how that will be delivered and the timetable for delivery.

By focusing on where Britain has most to offer, Labour will refocus development co-operation back on to eliminating poverty by supporting partners with economic transformation, prioritising conflict prevention, working for fairer deals on debt and unlocking climate finance. Our new approach will be based on respect—a genuine partnership with the global south, supporting its plans, as the noble Viscount said, to build stronger partnerships while supporting jobs and innovation at home. What we want to see, and what will give hope to global partners, is a Britain reconnected as a trusted partner, providing longer-term sustained development funding and support. Working in partnership to strengthen the multilateral system, we can leverage more of the funds needed to meet the global goals, modernise developing economies and build resilient public services to create lasting change.

Photo of Lord Benyon Lord Benyon The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) 5:47, 11 January 2024

My Lords, the nature and environment activist Tony Juniper, now chairman of Natural England, wrote a very good book called What Has Nature Ever Done For Us? He showed the equivalent of the life of this planet in a train journey from London to Cambridge. Humanity’s existence on that journey is the equivalent of just walking from the train to the ticket machine. Only the last few steps of that equivalent journey have created the existential threat of climate change and the loss of nature that we know is so damaging and that can deliver such appalling insecurity and poverty, and which we are seeking to tackle.

I thank noble Lords for their contributions to this debate. I do not have time to do all the contributions credit, but I pay great tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, for tabling it and for her years of dedication to international development.

Tackling climate change and ending poverty are two sides of the same coin, and we cannot achieve one without the other. The United Kingdom has a crucial role to play, working with our partners to address these critical global challenges. I thank the noble Baroness for setting the debate in context, and I pay great tribute to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester for an outstanding maiden speech, in which he stated both the internationalist and the local approach, picked up by so many noble Lords. His was a really thoughtful contribution, and we are lucky to have him among us.

We cannot achieve our climate or development goals without full-scale economic transformation to deliver the trillions of dollars of investment needed. This must be coupled with unprecedented action to tackle climate change and to protect and restore nature. Our White Paper, which has been much commented on in this debate, was published in November. It establishes seven areas of transformative action, and this is how we will deliver a step change in international development by the end of the decade, ending extreme poverty and tackling climate change.

Among the key elements is going further and faster to mobilise international finance and increase private sector investment in development, while strengthening and reforming the international system to improve action on trade, tax and, crucially, debt, which was mentioned by many noble Lords—as well as tackling the scourge of dirty money, of course. This is also the key to unlocking the money needed to tackle global challenges, including climate change. We will build on resilience and enable adaptation for those affected by conflict, disasters and climate change. We will harness innovation, new technologies and scientific research to solve the problems that money alone cannot solve.

The noble Lord, Lord Alton, was right to remind us that linked to this is the whole humanitarian piece. The Pentagon first described climate change as the great risk multiplier, and, with that risk to security, systems of governance collapse. With that comes increased authoritarianism—my noble friend Lord Hannan referred to this. In the White Paper, there is a stark graph showing the number of people in the world who now live under authoritarian regimes, compared to a few years ago.

The global context for international development has changed, and the White Paper sets out our approach and how it is changing with it. We will work in partnership, based on mutual respect, with leaders, communities and individuals shaping the solutions they need. This includes our work to reduce emissions, adapt to climate change and protect and restore nature. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Eccles for mentioning Kew. At a number of recent COPs, we have seen how Kew is at the heart of this, with its 500 scientists delivering an extraordinary piece of soft power for Britain and a real gift to the world, in the understanding of the importance of plants and natural systems. I am grateful to my noble friend, who led it so well in the past. It is absolutely key to the kind of partnerships that we are creating around the world.

We also partner with countries to improve access to climate adaptation finance. For example, we co-chair the climate and development ministerial meetings with the UAE, Vanuatu and Malawi. The forum has already taken significant steps, including raising support for debt-suspension clauses in times of disaster and launching a task force to improve access to climate finance. Overall, the UK will prioritise its grant resources for the lowest-income countries and communities, which are particularly vulnerable to the effects of conflict and climate change. We will go further and faster to mobilise more finance to help end extreme poverty and tackle the climate crisis.

I will mention the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich’s absolutely vital point about using local actors, as well as Church-based and faith-based organisations, along with civil society—this is so important. As was mentioned, in countries such as South Sudan, it is really important that we use them as part of the tools we need to win through.

Beginning with our work to reduce emissions, we remain committed to delivering net zero at home and driving progress internationally to keep 1.5 degrees centigrade within reach. Over the past 12 years, our international climate finance has provided almost 70 million people overseas with improved access to clean energy. We also reduced or avoided 86 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. The deal at COP 28 is a key moment in efforts to get to net zero by 2050. For the first time, there has been a global agreement to transition away from fossil fuels, and I am proud of the UK’s pivotal role in the negotiations—but we still have a long way to go. We will continue to work with countries around the globe to accelerate action in this critical decade. I remind noble Lords who are concerned about recent announcements that we are reducing our dependency on our own oil exploration by 7% a year.

I turn to critical minerals. The green transition must not come at the expense of countries—often less developed ones—with critical mineral resources. The UK is working through the G7 and G20 with the IEA, through forums such as the Minerals Security Partnership, to support diverse, responsible and transparent critical mineral supply chains. I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, and her colleagues in the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Critical Minerals for their efforts on this vital issue.

I turn to adaptation. Over the past 12 years, our international climate finance has helped more than 100 million people cope with the effects of climate change. Our negotiators helped to agree a framework at the COP 28 summit to bring a global goal on adaptation to life; although there is further work to be done, this is a critical step towards more meaningful action. For those who doubt Britain’s place in multilateral diplomacy, on climate and nature, we were really at the heart of that COP and previous ones—and I pay huge tribute to all those who take part. We demean them if we talk it down; this was an extraordinary result. We were extremely gloomy about the possibility of getting the kind of agreement that we did, and certainly to start the whole thing with an agreement on loss and damage was very welcome.

My colleague, the Minister for International Development, Andrew Mitchell, announced at COP 28 £100 million of UK funding to help vulnerable people adapt to climate change. That includes £36 million for action in the Middle East and north Africa to support long-term climate stability; that will mobilise $500 million for clean energy and green growth projects, and support 450,000 people to adapt to climate change.

COP 28 also reaffirmed the importance of forests—and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, for mentioning that—and nature, in tackling the climate crisis. I could list all the amounts of money that we have put towards that, but it is a crucial part of the work that we need to do globally to get the planet back on track.

We know that aid alone will not be enough when the annual financing gap for achieving the sustainable development goals is $3.9 trillion. We must unlock finance from other sources, and mobilise more private capital to low- and middle-income countries—a key point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan. The UK is a major donor to international climate finance. At the G20, the PM announced that the UK will provide $2 billion to the Green Climate Fund, which is the biggest single funding commitment that the UK has made to help tackle climate change. Half of that contribution will go to adaptation.

Overall, we remain committed to spending £11.6 billion of new money on international climate finance by April 2026, including £3 billion to restore and sustainably manage nature. We are committed to tripling UK funding for adaptation to £1.5 billion next year to support those experiencing the worst impacts of climate change. The UK is delivering on its commitment. I have been party to lengthy discussions on this, and I assure noble Lords that we are serious about this.

We have heard the increasing calls from developing countries to reform the international financial system. The Prime Minister launched the global climate finance framework at COP 28 alongside leaders from Barbados, Kenya, India, France and others. This sets a new ambition on reforming finance to address our climate and development goals. A key pillar of reform is multiplying our impact by unlocking hundreds of billions of affordable finance from international financial institutions for key development priorities, and I shall visit one of those next week.

Our guarantees to multilateral development banks—a point that was raised—are also doing this. At the UN General Assembly, we announced a guarantee to unlock up to $1.8 billion of climate finance, supporting vulnerable people across Asia and the Pacific to adapt to climate needs. To note the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, the UK is leading the way on making the global financial system more shock responsive. We were the first to offer climate-resilient debt clauses in loans from our export credit agency, pausing repayments when disasters strike. COP 28 saw the UK announce take-up of this offer in Senegal and Guyana, with 73 countries backing the UN call to action for creditors to offer CRDCs by 2025.

I am conscious that I want to address the point made by my noble friend Lady Bottomley about malaria, which was also raised by others. We are making a range of investments to fight malaria, which include our £1 billion contribution to the seventh replenishment of the Global Fund. This supports vital tools in combating malaria, including the distribution of 86 million mosquito nets, 450,000 seasonal malaria chemoprevention treatments, and treatment and care for 18 million people—but the future is where the benefits really lie. We are funding R&D support on next-generation bed nets and vaccines and are supporting research that has paved the way for the rollout of RTS,S and R21 malaria vaccines, mainly targeting children under five who are at much greater risk of malaria. Additionally, we have supported the rollout of these vaccines through our £1.6 billion funding to GAVI, including for further clinical trials. This is really important work and, with our biotech industry and ability to move fast on vaccines, we can benefit from some of the tragedies we have had in recent years, such as Covid, and see real benefit to the world in what we are delivering.

Some noble Lords raised the issue of loss and damage. The UK’s contribution to the new fund is a new commitment that will be met from our ODA budget. It is part of our ongoing commitment to support developing countries to tackle the causes and impacts of climate change. I just want to take one of the dying minutes of this debate to mention SIDS—small island developing states. These are people who are facing the reality of climate change on a daily basis. We are absolutely at the heart of trying to support them. I do not have time to go into it, but it is an absolute priority for our country.

We must accelerate progress towards the sustainable developing goals; that matters now more than ever. We will continue to use all the tools that we have to deliver the transformation that the world needs to see, including building a bigger, better and fairer international system that addresses poverty and climate change. Together with our partners, we are building a healthier, greener and more prosperous future for generations to come.

Photo of Baroness Northover Baroness Northover Liberal Democrat 6:03, 11 January 2024

I thank all noble Lords for their wide-ranging contributions and their very kind comments. I thank the Minister for his response and for granting me some of his time so that I could respond to the debate. I also look forward to what I hope will be his written response to the questions he has not managed to answer, not least from my noble friend Lord Purvis.

What strikes me about this debate is the cross-party agreement that climate change is real, dangerous and must be tackled. I am also struck by the common agreement that we must look and act globally as well as locally, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester said in his excellent maiden speech. I am sure that we will return to these issues. On that, I hope, positive note of what we can and must do—for the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles—I thank everyone again for their contributions.

Motion agreed.