IIED Submission to the UK International Development Committee inquiry on climate change, development and COP26


The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) welcomes the opportunity to provide this submission to the inquiry by the UK International Development Committee (IDC) into climate change, development and COP26.

In the context of the IDC’s previous 2019 report on UK aid for combating climate change, this new inquiry will be critical for influencing strong outcomes for climate, nature and people at COP26 and other major meetings taking place during the 2021 Super Year.

IIED is a policy and action research organisation. We promote sustainable development to improve livelihoods and protect the environments on which these livelihoods are built. We specialise in linking local priorities to global challenges. IIED is based in London and works in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and the Pacific, with some of the world’s most vulnerable people. We work with them to strengthen their voice in the decision-making arenas that affect them — from village councils to international conventions.

We agree with the committee’s previous findings that climate change is one of the biggest threats to stability and wellbeing in some of world’s most vulnerable nations, and we continue to witness this directly through our extensive work with local partners in some of the most vulnerable countries to climate change.

Building on our experience, IIED has produced research and evidence relevant to the Terms of Reference for this inquiry which are outlined from page 2.


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IIED responses to Terms of Reference

Term of Reference 1:

The extent to which the Government has made progress on implementing the Committee’s recommendations, particularly those on climate finance, climate justice, the use of ODA to support fossil fuels and making climate change a strategic priority in all aid spending.

IIED offers the following analysis of progress and additional work still needed against the following recommendations from the Committee’s 2019 inquiry:

IDC 2019 Recommendation A: UK should focus investment on high-quality, risk-taking early finance that builds country institutions and climate capabilities. Commitments need to be for a minimum of five years. This would go back to DFID’s early principles, which recommended seven years’ minimum commitment for programmes.


Additional work needed to implement recommendation


IDC 2019 Recommendation B: UK should commit to requiring international experts to deliver in partnership with and to coach national institutional partners, so they leave behind skills and knowledge.


Additional work needed to implement recommendation


IDC 2019 Recommendation C: UK support should focus on LDCs, most vulnerable communities and target for the international development finance that must reach local levels.



Additional work needed to implement recommendation


IDC 2019 Recommendation D: UK should have more joint units that support countries, integrating the expertise of BEIS, Defra and DFID.



IDC 2019 Recommendation E: UK has an opportunity to fund work through carefully designed coalitions of government and non-government actors, training institutes and delivery partners with a common purpose that have vertical and horizontal integration of actors.



IDC 2019 Recommendation F: UK should consider developing, with consultation, a target for the international development finance that must reach local levels.


Additional work needed to implement recommendation


IDC 2019 Recommendation G: UK should create a requirement for all overseas development aid to deliver Paris-compatible development, along the lines of the Gender Equality Act.


Additional work needed to implement recommendation


IDC 2019 Recommendation H: Multilateral implementing entities should include a sunset clause to any support they give a partner, requiring them to build national systems and capabilities.


IDC 2019 Recommendation I: UK should use its convening power as a world leader and its role in the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit on Resilience to build coalitions of actors with the most vulnerable – the LDCs and small island states.


Additional work needed to implement recommendation


IDC 2019 Recommendation J: UK should use its position on Green Climate Fund (GCF) board to re-define the design principles of climate funds by reshaping the investment framework to ensure poorer countries, bottom-up national intermediaries and community-based projects have more access to GCF funds.


Additional work needed to implement recommendation


Term of Reference 2:

Any gaps that remain between what the Government has done and what it committed to do

In addition to the points outlined in Section 1 above, there are four key areas the UK Government should address in its role as COP26 President. 


  1. Reverse plans to cut aid funding to deliver on the $100 billion

The UK must reinstate its commitment to providing 0.7% of its gross national income annually as overseas development assistance (ODA) now. Without this, the UK has no political leverage given developed nations are collectively behind on the promised target of at least $100 billion of climate finance a year by 2020. The UK’s aid budget cuts send the wrong message to world leaders – that under-delivering for vulnerable countries is OK. The UK Government is putting substantial diplomatic effort into encouraging leaders to step up and support vulnerable countries with new climate finance commitments in the context of COP26, yet these aid cuts are undermining its efforts given the UK is backtracking on its own development finance commitments.


To ensure a successful COP26 with a strong legacy, it must position leaders to work together to address the challenge of access to climate finance. Building G7 support for this will be critical. If the planned aid cuts are not reversed, the UK will lose its opportunity to deliver a successful outcome at COP26 – its legacy will be lost.


  1. Put climate justice at the heart of the climate response

The UK has been a global leader on responding to the adaptation challenge prioritised by the most vulnerable countries. This focus has been an important balance to those donors only considering mitigation by the emerging economies. The countries who have done least to cause climate change are experiencing the hardest impacts, and some of these impacts are beyond the limits of adaptation. The Paris Agreement has 3 legs – mitigation, adaptation, and climate finance. Without action on all 3 the deal falls. 

The UK therefore needs to maintain and strengthen its focus on adaptation as well as develop a pragmatic and rights-based response to Loss and Damage. Given the merger of FCO with DFID and the apparent retraction of climate leadership from BEIS and DEFRA to FCDO, there is a greater duty than ever to set out how adaptation will be given continued leadership across FCDO’s top management.

The UK also needs to make a firm commitment to investing in the political capabilities of those parts of society often left out of long-term strategic planning processes – local communities, women, children and young people, disabled, displaced and Indigenous peoples. This is essential to ensuring climate action is not reversed or momentum lost with changes of government and requires considering how to support communities organise and federate within a country and across countries and how to provide patient support to those federations as they develop organisational and climate capabilities.


  1. Promote a green and just pandemic recovery

The COVID-19 pandemic was far outside the expected realms of possibility when the IDC published its 2019 report. Since the reports release, the world has suffered one of the greatest economic and social shocks in recent memory. Notwithstanding the substantial challenges the pandemic has created, it also presents a major opportunity to reset and ensure recovery efforts enhance our goals on climate and nature and to deliver for and with local people. However, to date the investment in the covid-19 response has spent significantly more on propping up fossil fuel industry than on enabling a green recovery.

Through its Presidency of both the G7 and COP26 this year, the UK has a unique opportunity to help influence and shape approaches to the recovery from the pandemic. It should lead by example, placing climate, nature and people at the heart of its recovery efforts, and work with world leaders to encourage them to do the same.


  1. Linking action on climate, nature and people in 2021

The world is dealing with multiple crises – the climate crisis, unprecedented biodiversity loss, rising inequalities, and now the COVID-19 pandemic. These challenges exacerbate pre-existing dynamics of marginalization and exclusion in already vulnerable countries, groups and individuals, thus impacting them asymmetrically. Strong and urgent action is needed to address these interconnected crises, including to leverage pandemic recovery packages to drive climate, nature and development outcomes this year and for the decades to come.

Leveraging the COP26 Nature Campaign, the UK Government should seek to strengthen linkages with China as the President of COP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) taking place later this year. The new Global Biodiversity Framework is expected to be agreed at the CBD COP15, and is a major milestone in global efforts to address the loss of nature. Both the UNFCCC COP26 and CBD COP15 processes should be mutually reinforcing in driving strong outcomes over the coming decade to support action on climate change, biodiversity and poverty.


  1. Overcome digital diplomacy challenges

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically shifted the way that developing countries engage internationally and will have implications for how the UK plans and manages COP26. Some recent research by IIED highlights the challenges.

In November 2020, IIED surveyed the UNFCCC LDC Group to understand how COVID-19 has impacted their climate diplomacy. More than half of the 46 countries responded and reported many challenges to accessing virtual forums during the pandemic. This IIED research into digital diplomacy is summarised below:

a)      90% agreed that poor internet accessibility affected their ability to participate in virtual meetings relevant to climate diplomacy. Accessibility meant, for example, no internet or signal where they are located.

a)      The same number also agreed that poor internet quality affected their ability to participate in virtual meetings. Examples of bad quality included the sound not working well during calls, needing to turn off the video function to ensure better connection, the connection dropping out, etc.

b)      Some LDC group members were not able to attend any virtual meetings relevant to climate diplomacy in 2020. There were also examples of LDC representatives to UNFCCC committees having to withdraw from these positions due to an inability to access virtual discussions.

c)      These connection issues present fundamental challenges to how climate vulnerable countries engage in virtual dialogues.

This research highlights the challenge of diplomatic engagement during the pandemic. It is not possible to guarantee that a virtual forum is inclusive unless people from the world’s poorest countries are able to access them. That means overcoming many logistical challenges. These challenges are not insurmountable. Participants can be supported with better access and quality internet in many cases, but the assumption that every country is starting from the same baseline in a virtual world is incorrect. The UKs diplomacy efforts and planning for COP26 during the pandemic and recovery must reflect this.


Term of Reference 3:

The extent to which the Government’s work to date on climate change and development has taken the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the needs of low-and-middle income countries and vulnerable groups into account

IIED has no specific comments to add further to what is already covered against Questions 1 and 2 above.


Term of Reference 4:

The potential of COP26 to address these remaining challenges effectively and the steps the Government needs to take if COP26 is to succeed in tackling them.

The points outlined against Questions 1 and 2 above present IIEDs views on current progress against the existing recommendations. They represent our view of the critical steps needed for the UK Government to deliver success at COP26.

The following summarises these steps, with a particular focus on climate justice, aid funding and access to climate finance.


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