Press Release
Chaos for climate goals as figures show government spent twice as much on fossil fuels as renewables

11 August 2017

  • Massive shift needed for UK to meet international commitments
  • Over 99% of export finance spent on fossil fuels 

The government spent more than double the amount on fossil fuels as it did on renewable energy overseas, according to research published today by the Catholic aid agency CAFOD.

The figures, commissioned by CAFOD and produced by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), show that more than 46% of UK spending on energy in developing countries went on fossil fuels, compared to 22% on renewable energy, jeopardising the UK’s ability to deliver against its international commitments to tackle climate change.[1] In total, the UK spent $9.73bn supporting energy overseas over a five-year period.

Yet the research shows a clash in spending between government departments and a lack of policy consistency. While the Department for International Development has made progress and spent more aid money on supporting renewable energy (32%) than it did on fossil fuels (22%), this was undermined by spending via UK export finance, over 99% of which went on fossil fuels.[2]

The government is being urged to clarify how it will overhaul spending of public money on energy overseas, given the UK cannot deliver on its international commitments under the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals without a major shift away from spending on fossil fuels to cleaner, renewable forms of energy.

Dr Sarah Wykes, lead analyst on climate change and energy at CAFOD, said:

“To tackle climate change we have to leave fossil fuels in the ground and switch rapidly to renewable sources of energy. Yet the UK carrying on a business as usual spending pattern overseas in recent years suggests a huge inconsistency in policy and a missed opportunity to promote greater investment in renewable technologies, as DFID has tried to do through its spending. It doesn’t make sense for there to still be any public money going into fossil fuels overseas, whether that’s through aid money, loans or export finance to support British companies operating overseas.”

CAFOD campaigns for politicians and decision-makers to tackle climate change which is already having a devastating impact on some of the world’s most vulnerable communities, pushing them deeper into poverty. International leadership on climate change is particularly important given the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement. 

Dr Sarah Wykes added:

“The Conservatives made manifesto commitments they would continue to lead international action against climate change and extreme poverty, but supporting fossil fuels overseas puts that leadership at risk at a time when international leadership is needed now more than ever on the Paris Agreement. We’d like some clarity from the government on how it plans to make its energy spending consistent with its promises to tackle climate change and help the world’s poorest people access modern energy services.”

Support for renewable energy overseas is vital for reaching people living without energy as, for those living in remote areas, local renewable energy sources such as solar panels are the quickest and cheapest way of connecting them. A report last year by CAFOD, ODI and other development agencies noted that more coal, for example, will only entrench global poverty rather than lift people out of it.[3]

Low sums for energy access and the poorest countries

The CAFOD/ODI analysis also found that of the money spent on energy in developing countries, only 8% went towards improving poor people’s access to energy, despite the government having committed as part of the Sustainable Development Goals to work towards ensuring universal access to affordable and sustainable modern energy services by 2030.

CAFOD’s Sarah Wykes noted:

“While there is an improving picture for how much aid money goes to energy access with an increase in DFID spending on this in the latest available figures, if we are to deliver against the Sustainable Development Goals then the UK needs to be moving farther at a quicker rate, and to make sure that we are reaching the very poorest people by shifting more support towards getting the world’s poorest people connected to modern energy services.”


[1] The UK spent $9.73bn supporting energy projects in developing countries over the five-year period 2010-2014, the latest year for which figures are available. Of this 46% went on fossil fuels, 22% went on renewables and 29% went to investments using both fossil fuels and renewables or where the energy sources could not be identified.  

[2] 99.4% of UK export finance to support energy overseas during the time period went to fossil fuels.

[3] ODI, CAFOD et al (2016) Beyond coal: Scaling up clean energy to fight global poverty.


  1. For further information, please contact:
    • Lucinda Devine in the CAFOD communications team on or +44 (0) 7793 972 591; or
    • CAFOD’s out-of-hours media hotline: +44 (0)7919 301 429.
  2. The Overseas Development Institute analysed the latest available energy expenditure data, covering the period 2010–2014. 2014 is the most recent year for which detailed aid statistics are available either from the OECD Aid Statistics database or from DFID.
  3. The data on UK public finance support for energy in other countries come from three sources:
    • The OECD Aid Statistics database ( was the source of data on expenditure (disbursements) of bilateral ODA and ODA channelled through EU institutions.
    • Oil Change International’s database ( and data provided directly from OCI were the source for disbursements through MDBs (including EIB support for energy in HICs) and UKEF.
    • ODI’s Climate Funds Update ( was the source for data on disbursements through international climate funds (i.e. CTF, SREP, GEF, and ICCTF).
  4. All figures are for disbursements, presented in the databases in US dollars ($). Full details of the methodology used are available on request.
  5. CAFOD is the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, and part of Caritas International. Across the world we bring hope and compassion to poor communities, standing side by side with them to end poverty and injustice. Because we work through the local Church, we can reach people and places that others can’t.

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