My field value: Helen Gavin

12 October, 2019

Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford

Government spends £2.5 Billion on fossil fuel projects

The UK government has stated an ambition to achieve Net Zero emissions by 2050… but refuses to end fossil fuel subsidies, both at home and elsewhere.

The UK Export Finance (UKEF), a ministerial department, spent £2.5 billion subsidising UK fossil fuel projects mostly in low and middle-income countries; amounting to 96% of the total UKEF budget over 2013/14 to 2017/18. In contrast it spent £49 million on clean energy and renewable energy projects over the same period; a reduction of 71%.

This “dirty” investment from UKEF increased eleven-fold between 2017/18 and 2018/19, jumping from £205 million to £1.9 billion.

In addition to this subsidy, the UK Government annually provide a £10 billion subsidy to fossil fuels through tax breaks and budgetary transfers, more than any other EU state.

Subsidising fossil fuel projects, removes the risk to investors and sends signals to the market to continue supporting fossil fuel production. It also locks the recipients into high-carbon dependency for decades. The investments undermine the UK’s legally-binding climate neutrality agreements, and international climate and development targets, and have wide-ranging negative environmental impacts.

Stop supporting fossil fuel energy projects!

In June 2019, the Environmental Audit Committee published its report on the UKEF, calling on the government  to end its support for overseas fossil fuel energy projects, and only back British business export projects that support the UK’s climate goals. In addition to identifying the total funding for fossil fuel projects, the committee also found that some of recipients were not based in the UK.

The former UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon also urged a “recalibration” of UKEF’s policy to meet international climate trends and obligations.

International trade secretary Liz Truss rejected the call to cease fossil fuel investment by 2021, saying that the “UK’s oil and gas sector is a significant source of skilled jobs across different regions of the UK and continues to play an essential role in the UK’s energy security even as we transition to lower carbon and renewable energy sources.” This response has been called hypocritical, and completely undermining parliament’s declaration of a climate emergency.

UKEF funding