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UK “shirking” climate change responsibilities, report suggests

Many wealthy Commonwealth countries are failing to stick to their climate change reduction obligations according to Christian Aid, although many developing countries have been found to be overachieving.

A report by the charity found that the UK, Canada and Australia are not delivering their fair share of the global effort to tackle climate change. The UK, for example, emits more CO2 per person than 18 poorer Commonwealth countries combined.

The study, Climate Inequality in the Commonwealth, assesses the pledges to the Paris Agreement - which aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in an attempt to avert the worst impacts of climate change - of each Commonwealth country, and measures them against national capacity and historic emissions since 1990 to calculate their 'fair' proportion of the effort to address climate change.

The charity found that countries such as Bangladesh, Kenya and Zambia are doing more than asked of them, while small island states that are vulnerable to sea level rise like Kiribati, Vanuatu and Tuvalu are also more than doing their fair share. However, many of the wealthier countries have not made sufficient pledges to cut emissions based on their ability to act and responsibility for the problem, it suggests.

In many cases a 'fair' level of action by richer countries outstrips what they could achieve domestically; the study argues they should support developing nations to deliver emissions cuts. One approach could involve investment in programmes to boost renewable energy and clean cooking technology, which would also help millions of people access electricity without causing more pollution.

“The UK claims to stand in solidarity with its Commonwealth allies, but when it comes to one of the gravest threats to member nations, it is shirking its responsibilities,” said report author and Christian Aid’s international climate lead Mohamed Adow.

“The UK is proud of the shared values between the ‘family of nations’ but it is not pulling its weight and instead is leaving the heavy lifting to much poorer countries. Britain has a long history of industrial innovation and helping bring light and power to the remotest parts of the world would be an achievement worthy of a nation which claims to be a climate leader.”

A government spokesman said: “The UK is a global leader on tackling climate change including implementing the first legally binding emissions reductions targets through the Climate Change Act in 2008 and we have provided over $1.7bn [£1.2bn] of climate finance to Commonwealth countries since 2010.

“This is a key issue for the Commonwealth, particularly for those small island states that are vulnerable to increasing severe weather events and rising sea levels. We recognise the challenges they face and have, for example, provided £300m of climate resilient infrastructure programming in the Caribbean.”

In January government climate advisers said that the UK’s legal targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions will not be met unless at least three-fifths of new cars and vans purchased are electric by 2030. 

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