UK to triple funding to help countries adapt to impact of climate change

Leaders at COP27 know what's at stake, but richer nations remain coy about reparations for countries bearing the brunt of climate change, ITV News' Peter Smith reports.

Rishi Sunak has confirmed the UK is tripling its funding to help nations adapt to the impacts of climate change.In his national address at the COP27 climate summit, the prime minister said: “I know that for many, finances are tough right now. “The pandemic all but broke the global economy and before coming here today, I spent last week working on the difficult decisions needed to ensure confidence and economic stability in my own country."

He told delegates that the United Kingdom is delivering on its commitment to spend at least £11.6 billion on international climate finance between financial years 2021/22 and 2025/26. “And as part of this we will now triple our funding on adaptation to £1.5 billion by 2025," Mr Sunak added.

The PM reiterated the UK's commitment to a £11.6 billion climate change fund. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

He added that it is “morally right to honour our promises” when faced with extreme events such as devastating flooding in Pakistan.

A call to compensate disaster-hit developing countries and warnings that nations aren't doing enough to avert a "climate catastrophe" are set to dominate COP27.

On Monday, nearly 50 heads of states or governments took to the stage in the first day of “high-level” international climate talks in Egypt, with more to come in the following days.

ITV News' Peter Smith tells ITV News at Ten Host Tom Bradby what could be achieved over the next two weeks

Much of the focus is on national leaders telling their stories of being devastated by climate disasters, culminating on Tuesday with a speech by Pakistan's Prime Minister Muhammad Sharif.

This summer, flooding caused at least 1,500 deaths and £34 billion in damage in his country, with a study calculating that human-caused climate change increased the flood-causing rain by up to 50%.

Victims of flooding in Pakistan attempt to save their belongings from water damage.

Many developing nations impacted by past pollution - such as Pakistan and Bangladesh - are calling for compensation from the rich nations that spewed the lion’s share of greenhouse gases.

In international climate negotiations, the issue of polluters paying for their climate messes is called loss and damage.

“Loss and damage is going to be the priority and the defining factor of whether or not COP27 succeeds,” said Kenyan climate activist Elizabeth Wathuti.

Prime minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, suggested developed countries had a moral duty to do more given their historic exploitation of poorer nations.

She said their success, and higher carbon emissions through industrialisation, were financed by the "blood, sweat and tears" of the developing world.

“Are we now to face double jeopardy by having to pay the cost as a result of those greenhouse gases from the industrial revolution? That is fundamentally unfair," Ms Mottley added.

United Nations top officials say they are looking for “something meaningful in loss and damage” and were “certainly encouraged” by negotiations, held last week, that put the issue on the meeting agenda.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told ITV News there is a "moral obligation" for richer northern countries who have "caused climate change" to support developing nations who are bearing some of the worst impacts of rising temperatures.

She said: "There is a sensitivity around the language we use but there's an obligation on the developed global north countries that, frankly, have caused climate change through our industrial processes over the years.

"We need now to help the countries that have not done much to cause it but are dealing with a loss of damage to cope with that."

She said there needs to be a "grown up discussion" around the issue so countries can come to an agreement to get "some serious money" on the table.

Nicola Sturgeon tells ITV News that world leaders of richer nations need to have a 'grown up discussion' about their 'moral obligation' to help developing countries bearing the brunt of climate change

The latest round of UN climate talks takes place against a backdrop of increasingly devastating extreme weather around the world, as well as an energy and cost of living crisis driven by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

While there is evidence Russia’s actions have prompted an acceleration towards clean technology, the UN has warned that, based on countries’ latest climate action plans, there is currently no credible pathway to meet the 1.5C goal intended to avoid the worst impact of global warming.

Watch ITV News Asia Correspondent Debi Edward's report on China's consumption of coal amid COP27.

A stark report published ahead of the summit said, despite promises made at last year's COP26, countries currently aren't doing nearly enough to reduce the threat of "climate catastrophe" by the end of the century.

At the start of this month's summit, UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres warned the world is “on the highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator”.

Addressing world leaders in Sharm El-Sheikh, he said: “We are in the fight of our lives – and we are losing”.

While the world’s attention is gripped by war in Ukraine, prompting an energy, food and cost-of-living crisis, and other conflicts, Mr Guterres said: “Climate change is on a different timeline and a different scale.”

“It is the defining issue of our age. It is the central challenge of our century. It is unacceptable, outrageous and self-defeating to put it on the back burner.”

He warned: “Today’s crises cannot be an excuse for backsliding or greenwashing.”

Before Mr Sunak's speech at the summit, Downing Street said the prime minister will be looking to set the seal on last year’s summit in Glasgow with more than £200 million in UK funding to protect forests and invest in “green” technologies.

But as he prepared to pass on the baton to the Egyptians, he faced criticism at home over the government’s decision to issue more licences for oil and gas exploration in the North Sea on its continued opposition to new onshore wind.

The King speaks with Rishi Sunak during a reception at Buckingham Palace ahead of the Cop27 summit Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA

Mr Sunak had originally not intended to travel to Egypt, arguing his priority was to sort out the estimated £50 billion black hole in the public finances ahead of Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s autumn statement on November 17.

But he was forced into what opposition parties called a “screeching U-turn” after coming under fire from within his own party, as well as from environmentalists questioning his commitment to the net zero agenda.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson warned Tories against going soft on climate change targets as he dismissed the “nonsense” of calls to resume fracking and return to fossil fuels in response to the soaring energy prices triggered by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

In a swipe at Tories – including successor Liz Truss – he warned against calls to revive fracking, the process of extracting shale gas, in the UK.

Ms Truss had planned to lift the ban on fracking in England, but Rishi Sunak reinstated it.“There are people who have drawn the conclusion that the whole project of net zero needs to be delayed, mothballed and put on ice – for instance we need to reopen coal-fired power stations and frack the hell out of the British countryside,” he told a Cop27 fringe event.

The former prime minister said the summit in Egypt was a time to “tackle this nonsense head on.”

“Yes, of course, we do need to use hydrocarbons in the transitional period and, yes, in the UK there is more that we can do with our own domestic resources,” he said.

Mr Johnson insisted he wanted to play a supportive role to Rishi Sunak, but said he would act as the guardian of the commitments made when he was prime minister at COP26 in Glasgow.

For Labour, shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband said the Prime Minister should now drop plans to issue more licences for North Sea exploration and end the Government’s opposition to onshore wind.

“Rishi Sunak is the man who had to be dragged kicking and screaming to go to COP so it’s simply implausible for him to claim the mantle of climate leadership. Rishi Sunak is a fossil fuel prime minister in a renewable age,” he said.

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