Credit: Department for International Development aid
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”.