UK reneges on climate aid

By Kate Chaillat
Published: Monday 30 June 2008

civil society organizations have criticized the uk government of making a stealth cut to an 800-million (us $ 1,582-million) fund designed to help developing nations adapt to climate change.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown launched the Environmental Transformation Fund (etf) in November 2007, which was then expected to make "direct grants" to countries experiencing extreme storms, droughts and sea level rise because of climate change. But the government now says that an unspecified amount of the fund will be doled out in the form of "concessionary loans" and insists it had never pledged that the money would all be in "grant".

According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) only a portion of the fund including 50 million (us $99 million) to fight deforestation in the Congo Basin has been earmarked as grant. Defra is jointly responsible with the Department for International Development for managing etf. Defra, however, remains tight-lipped about the management of rest of the fund.

"So far, the government has not clarified how much of the fund will go in as grant or loan," says Tom Bigg, global governance researcher for the International Institute for Environment and Development (iied), London. "Loans would be incoherent with the fund's purpose of financing adaptation to (climate change)...The uk government is missing an opportunity to develop a real framework for environmental transformation," Bigg says.

iied is one of the civil society organizations that is dismayed over the fact that climate adaptation aid would be financed by loans and are seeking clarifications from the government on its management and distribution of etf. They also suggest developing a framework to ensure that the fund management is accountable to the public and its representatives.

However, they fear the money will probably go into the World Bank's Climate Investment Fund, which will be launched at the G8's annual meeting in July.

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