LONDON – Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain on Friday pledged to end direct taxpayer support for overseas fossil fuel projects as soon as possible, in a move designed to help position his country as a global leader in the fight against climate change.
The announcement, which will be made officially on Saturday during a Climate Ambition Summit convened by the United Nations, Great Britain and France, follows other recent commitments aimed at restoring Mr Johnson’s environmental reputation and pressuring other countries to reduce their emissions.
Next year Britain will host the United Nations climate negotiations in Glasgow, a meeting which is seen in Downing Street as an opportunity for the country to demonstrate that Brexit has not diminished its desire to play a leading role on the world stage. Climate change is also a policy that Mr Johnson expects to to find common cause with President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. who, unlike President Trump, opposed Brexit, which the Prime Minister defended.
In a statement, the prime minister’s office said Britain would end funding, aid and trade promotion for new projects overseas to extract or use crude oil, natural gas or oil. type of coal burned to generate electricity. There will be some limited exceptions for gas-fired power plants and other projects, within parameters consistent with the Paris Agreement on climate change, the government said.
“Climate change is one of the great global challenges of our time, and it is already costing lives and livelihoods around the world. Our actions as leaders must be motivated not by shyness or prudence, but by ambition on a very large scale ”, Mr Johnson said in a statement.
Decisive action today “would create the jobs of the future, promote the recovery of the coronavirus and protect our beautiful planet for generations to come”, he added.
Friday also, EU leaders agree to cut net carbon emissions over the next decade to 55 percent of their 1990 levels, despite objections from countries like Poland that remain heavily dependent on coal.
Britain, along with other wealthy countries, is a major source of funds for overseas fossil fuel projects, often providing loans to UK companies involved in the work or guaranteeing loans from banks British. According to the UK government, it has backed £ 21bn, or roughly $ 27.8bn, of UK stakes in overseas oil and gas projects over the past four years.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and the International Energy Agency called on countries to reduce or stop government subsidies for fossil fuels. An independent dashboard estimates Britain’s total public support for fossil fuel projects at $ 16 billion per year.
Earlier this month, Mr Johnson announced plans to end the sale of new gasoline and diesel cars within a decade and change the way people heat their homes. It was part of a program that the UK government said would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, by 2030, to at least 68% of their 1990 levels, the fastest rate of any major savings.
Environmental groups have widely welcomed the surge, though some have questioned whether the government will spend enough to meet its goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Advocacy groups also welcomed the decision to end taxpayer support for overseas fossil fuel projects. “The UK may trigger a country domino effect ending taxpayer support for fossil fuel projects around the world, hastening the end of the fossil fuel era and increasing the chances of success at the Glasgow summit,” said Global Witness’s Adam McGibbon said in an email. declaration.
Laurie van der Burg, senior activist at Oil Change International, called the announcement a “powerful signal that the era of governments supporting deadly fossil fuels with public money is coming to an end,” but warned that questions important to this decision remained unanswered.
In Britain, the opposition Labor Party has also offered its support. “Ending our hypocritical stance on fossil fuel financing is a basic requirement for being a credible host of COP26,” said Ed Miliband, who speaks on behalf of the party on business, energy and industrial strategy. , referring to the Glasgow summit.
“Now ministers must focus on an ambitious Glasgow deal that meets the Paris Agreement goals of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” he added.
Somini Sengupta contributed reporting from New York.