The UK Foreign Office spent funds from the Official Development Aid budget to promote shale gas drilling in China, as well as to support expansion of oil and gas industries in Brazil, Mexico, India, and Myanmar - a report released this week by energy watchdog Platform has revealed.
Analysis by Platform - released in collaboration with Christian Aid and Friends of the Earth - is based on official Foreign Office data and shows the Prosperity Fund financed sixteen projects of strategic support to oil and gas industries.
The Prosperity Fund disburses Official Development Aid funds with the aim of “[removing] barriers to economic growth in order to reduce poverty”.
The report follows revelations last week that energy minister Claire Perry had privately met the shale gas industry regarding a plan to “create a ‘UK model’ for shale gas extraction which can be exported around the world”.
Two Prosperity Fund projects aim to export UK expertise in shale gas regulation to China.
At the same time the UK’s own regulatory controls on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) are under intense criticism, including legal action, from communities exposed to the impacts of fracking and councils concerned about government policy to overrule local objections.
Research author Anna Markova, from Platform, said: “The Foreign Office is spending aid money to make economies more dependent on oil and gas, including promoting fracking.
"We need to be urgently doing precisely the opposite. Funds like these should be spent to support a managed and just transition away from fossil fuels.”
The UK is a signatory to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, including “urgent action on climate change” (SDG13). The UK is also committed to phasing out fossil fuel subsidies as a member of the G20 and as part of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.
Barbara Richardson, a spokesperson from Frack Free Lancashire, commented: “It is quite unbelievable that the UK should have the hubris to suggest that it can export a regulatory system that is clearly not fit for purpose.
"Our regulation of fracking is full of holes. Of ten recommendations made in 2012 by the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering to ensure fracking could be considered safe, only one has been fully implemented.
"It is hard to understand how any country could believe that our rag bag of so-called expertise in this area could be fit for purpose. Fracking is an industry that has failed at every level in the UK.
"How can we set ourselves up as being some form of leading light?"
Rose Dickinson, Friends of the Earth campaigner, said: “Our government’s claim to be climate leaders cannot be taken seriously while it continues to push fracking at home and abroad.
"We need to be moving away from fossil fuels, not showing other countries the best way to dig up more. Public money should not be used to fund further climate chaos.”
Christian Aid’s Global Lead – Climate Change, Dr Kat Kramer added: “Rather than funding prosperity, the Prosperity Fund is subsidizing poverty.
"It is a perversity beyond measure to be subsidizing fossil fuel companies to cause climate change impacts, which affect the poorest and most vulnerable the most.
"There is no such thing as a “clean” fossil fuel, and since real clean alternatives exist – including energy demand reduction and efficiency measures, and renewable sources of energy – there is no excuse to be funding these sources of dangerous climate change."
Kramer continued: "The UK is looking to cut its own emissions to net zero, and this level of reduction is needed global by 2050.
"The recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made clear that we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions radically and very rapidly, and that the world needs to end its fossil fuel addiction.
"Subsidies to fossil producers is the antithesis of sustainable development support – which is the raison d’être of the Prosperity Fund.”
Marianne Brooker is a commissioning editor at The Ecologist. This article is based on a press release from Platform London.