Press release | Feb. 6, 2020

UK taxpayer funded organisation spent $750 million financing climate change

UK Government again caught funding fossil fuels overseas

6th February 2020, London – A London-based investment organisation that receives more than two thirds of its funding from the UK taxpayer has committed $750 million to climate-wrecking fossil fuel projects in some of the world’s poorest countries, Global Witness today reveals, as the UK gears up to host a major UN climate summit.

The Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG) has received over $1 billion from the UK’s aid pot since it began in 2002. PIDG has committed $750 million to support fossil fuel projects, using some of the world’s most polluting fuels.

Although the UK government recently committed to ending all support for coal projects outside of the UK, the vast majority of PIDG fossil fuel spending has gone on oil and gas. It also includes recent heavy fuel oil (HFO) power plants in Senegal and Mali. Heavy fuel oil is a tar-like substance, widely recognised as a deadly pollutant, a major air pollution risk and a key source of climate change. 

“The British public will quite rightly be appalled to know that their tax money is being used to finance some of the world’s dirtiest fossil fuels, ultimately contributing to climate change. It flies in the face of claims by the UK Government, ahead of hosting a major UN climate summit this year, that the UK is a global leader in fighting climate change.” - Adam McGibbon, Senior Climate Campaigner at Global Witness

Global Witness has found that 64% ($477.5 million) of fossil fuel support by PIDG has gone to gas projects, whilst a further 19% ($143 million) has been spent on oil. This financial support has the effect of spurring on further private sector investment in fossil fuels, meaning the real cost to the environment could be many times more than what these figures even suggest.

International development organisations say that UK overseas fossil fuel support should end, and that renewable energy is the best way to provide energy access for the world’s poorest people.

“Aid money is something British taxpayers should be proud of, but when used to fund fossil fuels it only makes global poverty worse, increases air pollution and locks the world’s poorest countries into reliance on fossil fuels, at a time when we need to be urgently moving away from them.” - Adam McGibbon
“PIDG claim their purpose is to combat poverty and improve lives. By funding climate change it is doing precisely the opposite, all whilst being propped up by UK public money.” - Adam McGibbon

This research is just the latest in a string of revelations over UK government agencies and UK funded organisations supporting fossil fuel projects overseas. Research has shown that between 2010 and 2017 the UK spent $4.6 billion on fossil fuels overseas, across all departments. UK Export Finance, a Government agency tasked with assisting business abroad, gave 97% of their energy support from 2010-17 to fossil fuel projects. Whilst a Government “prosperity fund” has promoted fracking in China and spent money on 16 global oil and gas projects.

Global Witness is calling on the UK Government to immediately end all fossil fuel investments in PIDG whilst committing UK taxpayer money to solely fund clean energy. 

Key stats (2002-2018):

  • PIDG has received over $1 billion in aid money from the UK Government – 71% of its total funding from members and owners.
  • PIDG has spent $750 million (half of all of its energy spending) on fossil fuels.
  • 2019 investments not included in these figures:
  • $23.8 million for a gas plant in Togo.
  • $31 million for a gas plant expansion in Cote D’Ivoire.