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Christian campaigners warn UK government to stick to fossil fuel ban promise

by Tola Mbakwe

A Christian charity has urged the UK government to stick to its plans to stop providing support for oil and gas projects overseas.

Last month at the Climate Ambition Summit attended by 75 world leaders, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the UK will stop providing support for fossil fuel projects. 

However, ministers have confirmed that a number of fossil fuel projects are still being considered for approval by UK Export Finance, a government body which underwrites  business activity outside the UK.  

CAFOD, a Catholic international development charity, is also concerned that the fossil fuel ban could be delayed for months. It claims that loopholes will enable other publicly funded bodies to evade the ban and use UK taxpayer money to continue backing overseas projects. 

Robin Mace-Snaith, head of climate change and energy and CAFOD told Premier: “As it's set out in the consultation document that the government has put forward, they've given multiple options of implementing this policy in terms of timing.

“So they've put forward that it could be an option of March 2021, it could be October before the Climate Summit that the UK hosts in November, or it could be looked to be put forward past another year and into 2022.

“The UK has been investing in fossil fuels for a considerable amount of time, it has a historic responsibility to really tackle this issue.”

On top of the issue with timing, CAFOD has also criticised a loophole which could allow funding to continue to go towards fossil fuels even after the ban is implemented. It claims the government has failed to make the policy compulsory for the CDC Group and the Private Infrastructure Development Group, two organisations that receive aid money for private sector investments.  

CAFOD campaigns manager Liam Finn added that the further use of public money to support new oil and gas projects would lead to an “outcry”.

“The Prime Minister’s decision to stop backing fossil fuel projects overseas was a big step in the right direction, putting an end to a policy which made a mockery of the government’s claims to be taking the climate crisis seriously,” he said.

“But the ban has to be implemented immediately and apply to all UK spending – whether that’s directly or indirectly through private sector organisations. People will be outraged if the government allows any more public money to be used to support the fossil fuels which are driving temperature rises and devastating vulnerable communities. 

“As Pope Francis said at the very summit where the Prime Minister made the announcement, measures to end the climate emergency ‘cannot be postponed any further’ when so many of our sisters and brothers worldwide are already paying the price for a crisis for which the UK and other wealthy countries bear the greatest historic responsibility.” 

Meanwhile, Quakers in Britain have joined 16 other representatives of faith bodies to call on the UK government to immediately ban the use of public money to fund fossil fuel projects overseas.

The open letter to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Kwasi Kwarteng, states that the UK has “a moral obligation to support developing countries to ‘leapfrog’ dirty fossil fuel energy and move straight to clean energy sources.”

“We must not allow UK finance to lock countries into years of high-carbon, polluting infrastructure, while we ourselves transition to clean energy,” it adds.

Listen to Premier’s interview with Robin Mace-Snaith here:

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