Britain yesterday pledged almost £2 billion in “climate aid” to help finance foreign projects including wind turbines in Africa and greener cattle farming in Colombia. The disclosure is sure to provoke anger among hard-pressed families.
Each household will contribute £70 to schemes to tackle climate change in developing countries before March 2015, under plans championed by Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary.
Conservative MPs were furious last night at the scale of the bill, which was unveiled as George Osborne prepares to announce a series of tax rises and spending cuts in today’s Autumn Statement.
Lord Lawson of Blaby, a former Chancellor, also criticised the “appalling waste of money” at a time when household budgets are already squeezed.
Senior Conservatives were also dismayed at the timing of the announcement, but Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, hailed the cash as “fantastic news”.
The disclosure is sure to provoke anger among hard-pressed families, who increasingly see foreign aid and green energy as among the lowest priorities for Government spending in the current financial climate.
Mr Davey gave the commitment as he arrived at United Nations climate change talks in Doha, Qatar, making Britain the first G7 country to make such a pledge.
At a party at the British Embassy, ministers gave details of £150 million in new projects as part of Britain’s £1.8 billion in “climate aid” for poorer countries within three years – the equivalent of £70 per household.
Mr Davey said the money should be spent because “climate change is a global threat and with every passing year, the nature and the extent of that threat grows clearer”.
“We also recognise that the world’s poorest will be hit the hardest by the impacts of climate change, and we need to help communities adapt to these challenges,” he added.
The UK’s package of support includes almost £100 million to help to subsidise renewable energy in Africa, such as electricity produced from wind and solar farms.
Around £15 million will go to help cattle farmers practise “low carbon agriculture” in Colombia and £14 million will help build wind farms and other renewables in Uganda.
The spending has angered a number of Tory back-bench MPs who are already up in arms about the scale of Britain’s aid spending and expensive renewable energy at a time of rising bills.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, a Conservative MP for North East Somerset, said the spending was “an absolutely classic example of waste” that should be stopped at a time of austerity.
“All I can say is a fool and his money are soon parted,” he said. “But it’s the British taxpayer having to pay for this absurd expenditure. We know wind farms are all but useless and nobody wants them in England, let alone Africa.”
Glyn Davies, a Conservative MP for Montgomeryshire, also criticised the level of climate aid spending. “This can’t be the priority for spending when the Coalition government is trying to create jobs and reduce the cost of living,” he said.
“It seems difficult to understand how we can justify this when energy is a huge cost for so many of our households and businesses.”
Peter Bone, Conservative MP for Wellingborough, said he thought the spending was “absolutely crazy” at a time when public services were being cut.
Their view was not shared by charities and green groups, which congratulated Mr Davey for making Britain the first of the G7 nations to make a firm commitment on climate change.