The UK will provide £160 million towards developing nations’ net zero efforts at the same time as Rishi Sunak is watering down green pledges at home.
Energy minister Graham Stuart announced the funding at the United Nations’ Climate Ambitions Summit in New York.
The Department for Energy Secretary and Net Zero said the money would assist developing nations to speed up the creation and deployment of new green technologies designed to reduce emissions and drive down costs.
It comes after the Prime Minister delayed a number of goals aimed at achieving a net zero carbon emissions economy in the UK by 2050 in a move that has sparked widespread criticism, including from those in his own party and the Government’s climate change advisers.
In a speech on Wednesday, Conservative Party leader Mr Sunak pushed back the ban on new petrol and diesel cars, softened the plan to phase out gas boilers by 2035 and scrapped the requirement of energy efficiency upgrades to homes.
The Prime Minister said the shift was in response to concerns over the financial costs to British households — but insisted the UK, even with the changes, is still on target to meet the 2050 target.
After announcing the Government’s latest international climate change package in the US, Mr Stuart said: “The UK has cut its emissions by more than any other major economy since 1990 and, following Cop26, will continue to spearhead international efforts to limit global warming and reach net zero.
“It is essential that developing countries are able to future-proof their industries too — and we will stand with them every step of the way in their industrial transformation.”
Teresa Ribera, Spain’s ecological transition minister, said there was “consternation” and sadness at the UN conference when delegates heard about Mr Sunak’s moves to water down the UK’s domestic environmental pledges.
The Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party member said she felt it was “probably not the right decision to be taking” and called it a “contradictory” message.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s PM programme, Ms Ribera said Mr Sunak’s stance came across as “defeating”, adding: “The role is not to say, ‘Well since it is difficult, I prefer to postpone’.”
The money announced by the UK in New York follows the Prime Minister’s pledge, made during his trip to India for the G20 summit, of £1.62 billion towards the Global Climate Fund.
It marked the UK’s biggest single financial contribution to helping the world’s most vulnerable people adapt to and mitigate the impact of climate change, No 10 said.
The £160 million funding envelope is part of wider UK international efforts to assist developing countries in tackling climate change, which includes a commitment to spend £11.6 billion on international climate finance between 2021 and 2026.
Ms Coutinho, a close ally of Mr Sunak’s, met with leading businesses and philanthropists looking to invest in developing technologies at the event.
Speaking ahead of the meetings, her department said the Cabinet minister would stress the need for international co-operation to reduce global emissions.