The UK's aid budget must reflect the fact that global poverty and climate change devastation go together

This article was first published in The Telegraph https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/07/08/worlds-poorest-hardest-hit-effects-climate-change-species-destruction/

When nature thrives, people thrive too – it’s time for our development policies to restore the environment

Zac Goldsmith, Conservative MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston

Every minute, forty football pitches worth of forest disappears. Our oceans are being filled with plastic at such a rate than by 2050 they will contain more plastic than fish. In the last fifty years, we have global wildlife populations decline by an average of sixty percent. And now whole species are disappearing at an unprecedented rate, with over a quarter of animals and plants threatened with extinction.

These sobering statistics are just a glimpse of the environmental tragedy that the world faces. This is a crisis on its own terms – we are facing the wipe-out of iconic animals and the destruction of beautiful landscapes – but it represents an existential threat to people too.

Nature is at the root of everything we rely on as humans – from the air we breathe to the water we drink, and from the soil we use to grow our food to the places we go to relax. So when we cut down forests, we deprive people of a source of clean air and income; when we pollute the oceans, we deny people access to fish to sell and eat; and when we degrade soil, it is people who suffer as crops fail and food becomes scarce.

This undeniable link between the destruction of the natural world and its impact on people means that the environment is a major development issue too. With seventy-five percent of the world’s poorest households relying directly on fishing or farming, and with over ninety percent of the poorest people depending on natural resources for basics like food, fuel and transport, it is they – the most vulnerable people on the planet – who face the most dire consequences of the degradation of the environment. Whilst we in the developed world are – for now, at least – able to insulate ourselves against the worst effects, millions of people simply cannot.

Look at Somalia in East Africa. Its coastline of nearly 2000 miles has £104m worth of potential fish stocks, but years of poor governance and environmental neglect means that those stocks have been illegally exploited and overfished by foreign vessels, plunging thousands of local people into poverty and unemployment, with many turning to piracy and terrorism.

And yet despite this clear link between the natural world and poverty, the Government does not act accordingly in the way it makes policy and spends money. We in the UK can be immensely proud of our country’s aid work overseas – the annual 0.7% of GDP spend cops a lot of flak but it has time and again helped those in dire need after natural disasters, it has supported thousands of girls through school, and it has vaccinated millions of children against deadly diseases. But we do not yet do anywhere near enough to protect the natural environment as a means of preventing the base poverty that we are rightly focused on tackling.

Nobody now denies the inextricable link between poverty and climate change. It is manifestly true that rising global temperatures will make vast swathes of the world uninhabitable and force millions more into poverty and mass migration. Because of this, the UK has taken an international lead in reducing our own carbon emissions and supporting developing countries to do the same through the International Climate Fund. The nature crisis is intimately related to this and has the same destructive potential, but it receives a fraction of the political attention and government funding. It is time for that to change.

What would this look like in practice? I am part of a new, cross-party campaign – People and Nature – supported by MPs, environmental organisations and development NGOs and we are calling on the Government to act on three key areas.

Firstly, we need to make sure that all UK overseas aid is nature positive. That means that all our aid should be shown to be, at a minimum, doing no harm to the natural environment, just as every penny we spend at present must be shown to be good for sustainable development.

Secondly, the Government must stop harmful practices that contradict our stated support for the natural world. Whilst we have made great efforts to stop coal use and to plant more trees at home, we are still investing billions of pounds overseas in fossil fuel projects through export finance and unsustainable practices. We should comprehensively review all such spending and make sure that it is not harming the planet.

And finally, we need to take an international lead – just as we have with climate change – in negotiating a new global deal for people and nature. That means new binding goals for things like biodiversity increase and allocating significantly more of our overseas aid money to initiatives that protect and restore nature as a means of poverty prevention and alleviation.

More than anything, we need a marked shift in the way we do aid. The challenges of poverty, climate change and environmental destruction are intimately related – it is time we treated them as such. The idea that we have to choose between people and nature is entirely false. It is only by supporting people and nature across the world that we will begin to meet the great challenges of our age.

Make all UK aid 'nature positive' urges cross-party MP group

This article was first published in Business Green. https://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/3078568/make-all-uk-aid-nature-positive-urges-cross-party-mp-group

Almost 30 MPs and leading green groups launch People and Nature campaign arguing climate and environmental action is crucial to sustainable development

MPs have urged the government to make UK aid "nature-positive" and to stop all investments which hurt the environment, as part of a new cross-party campaign launched today in partnership with a several green groups.

The People and Nature initiative - which is backed by 28 MPs alongside WWF, Christian Aid, Amnesty International, and others - calls on the UK to tackle the climate and ecological crises simultaneously in order to help eradicate poverty and deliver on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

It argues global societal issues such as inequality and poverty cannot be solved without action to address climate change, nature destruction, and biodiversity loss, and that the next Prime Minister should ensure UK's foreign aid and international influence is focused on tackling all of these issues together.

MPs supporting the new campaign include the Conservatives' Zac Goldsmith, former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, the Green Party's Caroline Lucas, and Labour's Kerry McCarthy.

"Like climate change, nature's decline is a development issue," said McCarthy, Labour's former Shadow Environment Secretary. "If we fail to address the depletion of our environment, all the gains we make elsewhere - from health and poverty to food and sanitation - will be reversed. I hope the next Prime Minister will waste no time in adopting the campaign's three asks and showing a commitment to making development truly sustainable."

Among the campaign's core demands are that all UK aid is made "nature positive" with integrated interventions that both improve peoples' lives as well as enhance the natural environment. It also calls for an end to all investments which support fossil fuels, deforestation and destruction of carbon-rich ecosystems.

In addition, it urges the UK to push for "an ambitious deal for people and nature" at the global UN Conventional on Biological Diversity's meeting in October next year, and to ensure any new agreement is integrated with both the 2030 SDG agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The demands are included in a new report launched alongside the campaign, which highlights how the decline of nature and climate change will affect the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world first. It points out that 90 per cent of the world's poorest depend on biological resources for food, fuel, medicine, shelter and transportation, all of which are under threat from climate breakdown.

Meanwhile, it argues the UK is undermining its own overseas development efforts by continuing to fund fossil fuel projects through foreign aid and export finance. Between 2010 and 2016 £4.8bn of UK export finance went towards supporting fossil fuel projects, the report states.

Goldsmith, the Conservative MP for Richmond and North Kingston, argued that "when nature thrives, people thrive too".

"It's high time that our development policies and spending caught up with this and did more to support the environment as a crucial means of alleviating base poverty," he said. "By making sure all our aid supports environmental goals, by stopping support for anti-green policies overseas, and by stepping up our diplomatic and financial backing for the environment, people and nature will thrive."

The Department for International Development was considering a request for comment at the time of going to press.

However, the new report comes just days after the government pledged to place climate action and environmental protection at the heart of UK overseas aid policy, committing £190m towards climate issues as a first initiative.

International Development Secretary Rory Stewart has previously made clear his desire for all UK aid to be focused on tackling the "climate cataclysm".

Ban government investment in fossil fuels, urges cross-party group of MP

This article first appeared in The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/jul/08/ban-government-investment-fossil-fuels-cross-party-mps-aid

UK aid projects ‘actively undermine’ efforts to tackle climate crisis, MPs and campaign groups warn.

A cross-party group of MPs, backed by campaign groups, has called for an immediate ban on all investment in fossil fuels and for all UK aid to be “nature positive”.

The 28 MPs, led by Tory Zac Goldsmith and Labour’s Kerry McCarthy, with support from Amnesty International, WWF and other organisations, criticised the UK for “actively undermining” its own investment in tackling the climate emergency by continuing to fund fossil fuels through aid and export finance.

Kumi Naidoo, the secretary general of Amnesty who has made the climate crisis a key focus of the group’s work, said leaders needed an “urgent wake-up call”. The MPs and charities urged the government to put the environment at the centre of aid targets to alleviate poverty worldwide.

Speaking ahead of the launch of a cross-party People and Nature campaign in parliament on Monday, which will lobby for greater protections, Naidoo said: “There can be no lasting solution to any of the world’s crises – whether poverty, inequality, or human rights – without real action to save our planet from irreversible, catastrophic climate change and the loss of the natural systems we all rely on. Our leaders need an urgent wake-up call. This generation must take the decisions and the action to ensure humanity has a future on this planet. There is no alternative.”

Rory Stewart, the international development secretary, is due to give a keynote speech at the launch.

Wildlife expert Jane Goodall said: “People and nature cannot and have never existed separately – every individual, no matter how big or small makes a difference to the world and its web of life. We must protect our forests and animals, but we cannot do this if people are struggling to survive.”

She said the campaign is launching at a “vital time” ahead of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in 2020.

The group said that like the climate emergency, the decline of nature will affect the poorest people first.

Earlier this year, MPs criticised the government’s aid funding as “incoherent”, saying it failed to recognise the scale and urgency of the climate crisis.

The MPs highlighted that between 2010 and 2016 the UK spent £4.8bn through UK export finance to support fossil fuel projects – almost equal to the £4.9bn spending on International Climate Finance between 2011 and 2017. It has created a situation where “the UK government is providing climate aid with one hand and exporting the UK’s fossil fuel pollution with the other”, the report found.

MPs urge Government to address 'ecological crisis'

This article first appeared in edie. https://www.edie.net/news/11/MPs-urge-Government-to-address--ecological-crisis-/

After research revealed that tree planting was the biggest and cheapest way to mitigate climate change, a new cross-party campaign had called on the UK Government to combat the "ecological crises" in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The People and Nature campaign was launched in Parliament this morning (8 July), backed by 28 MPs including Zac Goldsmith and Caroline Lucas. The campaign calls on the Government to make all UK aid “nature positive” to enhance the natural environment, cease all harmful investments that contribute to deforestation and climate change and negotiate a deal for people and nature at the Convention on Biological Diversity’s meeting in October 2020 that is integrated with the SDGs and the Paris Agreement.

Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General of Amnesty International said: “There can be no lasting solution to any of the world’s crises – whether poverty, inequality, or human rights – without real action to save our planet from irreversible, catastrophic climate change and the loss of the natural systems we all rely on.

“Our leaders need an urgent wake-up call. It is this generation which must take the decisions and the action to ensure humanity has a future on this planet. There is no alternative.”

The campaign aims, which can be viewed in full here, are built on a worrying lack of alignment between political decisions and societal needs. Up to 90% of the world’s poorest people depend on biological resources for food, fuel and shelter, while 75% depend on farming and fishing for income. However, the UK has provided more than £920m to Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) to fossil fuel projects between 2010 and 2014. A further £4.8bn in export finance between 2010 and 2016 has been used on fossil fuel projects – almost equal to total International Climate Finance figures.

Tree planting

The campaign was launched after new research estimated that a worldwide planting programme could remove up to 66% of manmade emissions in a bid to mitigate the climate crisis.

The analysis, covered by the Guardian, found there are 1.7 billion hectares of land on which 1.2 trillion native tree saplings would naturally grow. That area is about 11% of all land and equivalent to the size of the US and China combined.

Commenting on the research, Christiana Figueres, former UN climate chief, said: “Finally we have an authoritative assessment of how much land we can and should cover with trees without impinging on food production or living areas. This is a hugely important blueprint for governments and the private sector.”

In related news, Environmental charity Action for Conservation is set to launch the largest youth-led natural restoration effort in the world at a 2,000-acre site in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales.

 In the UK, 56% of species have shown a decline in numbers between 1970 and 2013. Globally, the UN estimates that one million plant and animal species face extinction.

In an effort to create a global gold-standard for youth-led environmental action, the Penpont Project will be run by a Youth Leadership Group of twenty 12-17-year-olds, who will work in collaboration with tenant farmers, landowners, academics and local stakeholders to restore the natural land through conservation projects.

UK aid ‘must be nature positive and steer clear of fossil fuels’

This article first appeared in Energy Live News. https://www.energylivenews.com/2019/07/08/uk-aid-must-be-nature-positive-and-steer-clear-of-fossil-fuels/

The People and Nature campaign, a major cross-party campaign backed by 28 MPs, has launched in Parliament today.

The UK Government must ensure all the aid it provides is ‘nature positive’ and should immediately stop investing in fossil fuels.

Those are the demands from the People and Nature campaign, a major cross-party campaign backed by 28 MPs that has launched in Parliament today.

Led by a steering committee of developmental and environmental NGOs, it calls on the UK to step up protection for the environment through negotiating an “ambitious deal for people and nature” at the Convention on Biological Diversity’s meeting in October 2020, supported by new funding and targets to help eradicate poverty and achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The campaign says UK aid must support more integrated interventions to improve people’s lives and enhance the natural environment, while avoiding investments likely to contribute to the degradation of nature and ecosystems.

It warns the UK is currently undermining its own investments to tackle climate change by continuing to fund fossil fuels through aid, highlighting that between 2010 and 2016 the UK spent £4.8 billion through UK export finance on supporting fossil fuel projects – this is almost equal to the £4.9 billion spent on International Climate Finance between 2011 and 2017.

The campaign stresses this is necessary because the decline of nature is almost certain to affect the poorest and most vulnerable people first and most severely – around 90% of the world’s poorest people depend on biological resources to provide their food, fuel, medicine, shelter and transportation.

Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General of Amnesty International said: “There can be no lasting solution to any of the world’s crises – whether poverty, inequality, or human rights – without real action to save our planet from irreversible, catastrophic climate change and the loss of the natural systems we all rely on.

“Our leaders need an urgent wake-up call. It is this generation which must take the decisions and the action to ensure humanity has a future on this planet. There is no alternative.”

ELN has contacted the government for a response.

No sustainable development without nature: new cross-party campaign for calls on the UK to step up protection for global nature

  • All aid to be nature positive and government to introduce an immediate moratorium on all investment in fossil fuels

  • Calls on UK Government to negotiate an ambitious deal for people and nature at the Convention on Biological Diversity’s meeting in October 2020 with funding, goals and targets for nature’s recovery

  • Supported by 30 MPs, Jane Goodall PhD, DBE, Kumi Naidoo and led by steering committee of development and environment NGOs

London (8th July): A major cross-party campaign backed by 28 MPs launches today in Parliament, calling on the government to address the climate and ecological crises together to eradicate poverty and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

The People and Nature campaign has three asks, calling on the UK government to:

  1. Make all UK Aid nature-positive, supporting more integrated interventions that improve people’s lives and enhance the natural environment.

  2. Stop harmful investments that destroy nature and contribute to climate change, such as investing in fossil fuels, deforestation, conversion and exploitation of carbon- and nature-rich ecosystems.

  3. Negotiate an ambitious deal for people and nature at the Convention on Biological Diversity’s meeting in October 2020 that is integrated with the 2030 development agenda and the Paris Agreement.

You can read the campaign brochure here.

Speaking ahead of the launch:

Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General of Amnesty International said: “There can be no lasting solution to any of the world’s crises – whether poverty, inequality, or human rights – without real action to save our planet from irreversible, catastrophic climate change and the loss of the natural systems we all rely on. Our leaders need an urgent wake-up call. It is this generation which must take the decisions and the action to ensure humanity has a future on this planet. There is no alternative.”

Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE, Founder - the Jane Goodall Institute & UN Messenger of Peace said: “People and nature cannot and have never existed separately: every individual, no matter how big or small makes a difference to the world and its web of life. We must protect our forests and animals, but we cannot do this if people are struggling to survive. The People and Nature campaign is launching at a vital time ahead of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in 2020. I look forward to seeing what the UK government will do on this global stage to seek solutions that improve the lives of people, animals and the environment together.”

Kerry McCarthy, MP for Bristol East said: “Like climate change, nature’s decline is a development issue. If we fail to address the depletion of our environment, all the gains we make elsewhere—from health and poverty to food and sanitation—will be reversed. I hope the next prime minister will waste no time in adopting the campaign’s three asks and showing a commitment to making development truly sustainable.”

Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond and North Kingston said: “The distinction between supporting people and supporting nature is a false one – when nature thrives, people thrive too. It’s high time that our development policies and spending caught up with this and did more to support the environment as a crucial means of alleviating base poverty. By making sure all our aid supports environmental goals, by stopping support for anti-green policies overseas, and by stepping up our diplomatic and financial backing for the environment, people and nature will thrive.”

The decline of nature will, like climate change, affect the poorest and most vulnerable people first.

  • As many as 90% of the world’s poorest people depend on biological resources for food, fuel, medicine, shelter and transportation.

  • 75% of the world’s poorest households depend directly on subsistence farming or fishing.

  • Water scarcity and declining access to fresh water are increasingly significant problems for one to two billion people worldwide.

The UK is actively undermining its own investments to tackle climate change by continuing to fund fossil fuels through aid and export finance :

  • between 2010 and 2014, the UK provided £924 million of Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) to fossil fuel projects

  • between 2016 and 2018, the Prosperity Fund (counted as ODA) spent approximately £1.8 million on oil and gas projects

  • between 2010 and 2016 it spent 4.8billion through UK export finance to support for fossil fuel projects. This is almost equal to total spending on International Climate Finance 2011-17, at £4.9bn.

In 2020 key summits will take place:

  • The UK has bid to host COP 26 of the UNFCCC, setting out the next goals for Paris Agreement.

  • A five-yearly review of Sustainable Development Goals will take place

  • COP 15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity will establish new targets for nature’s recovery.

Notes to the editor:

The People and Nature campaign is coordinated by Seahorse Environmental Communications, reporting to the People and Nature Steering Committee. The campaign brochure was written by Seahorse Environmental Communications under the advice and guidance the Steering Committee. We would like to thank the Oak Foundation for supporting this work.

The People and Nature Steering Committee consists of:

Dr Mike Barrett, WWF

Dr Tom Clements, Wildlife Conservation Society

Dr Alison Doig, Christian Aid

Jo Elliott, Fauna & Flora International

Graham Gordon, CAFOD

Zac Goldsmith MP

Kerry McCarthy MP

Dr Dilys Roe, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)

Dominic White, WWF

For further information please see www.peopleandnature.co.uk or contact Costanza Poggi cpoggi@seahorsecomms.co.uk / 07763753246

The campaign is supported by the following MPs:

Hilary Benn, Leeds Central, Labour

Richard Benyon, Newbury, Conservative

Tom Brake, Carshalton and Wallington, Lib Dem

Maria Caufield, Lewes, Conservative

Simon Clarke, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Conservative

Geraint Davies, Swansea West, Labour

Thangam Debbonaire, Bristol West, Labour

Paul Farrelly, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Labour

Tim Farron, Westmorland and Lonsdale, Lib Dem

Frank Field, Birkenhead, Independent

Vicky Ford, Chelsford, Conservative

Zac Goldsmith, Richmond Park and North Kingston, Conservative

Kate Green, Stretford and Urmston, Labour

John Grogan, Keighley, Labour

Nick Herbert, Arundel and South Downs, Conservative

Oliver Letwin, West Dorset, Conservative

Caroline Lucas, Brighton Pavilion, Green

Rachel Maclean, Redditch, Conservative

Kerry McCarthy, Bristol East, Labour

John McNally, Falkirk, SNP

Layla Moran, Oxford West and Abingdon, Lib Dem

Victoria Prentis, Banbury, Conservative

Henry Smith, Crawley, Conservative

Jeff Smith, Manchester Withington, Labour

Alex Sobel, Leeds North West, Labour

Jo Stevens, Cardiff Central, Labour

Julian Sturdy, York Outer, Conservative

Paul Williams, Stockton South, Labour