Rory Stewart, U.K. secretary of state for international development. Photo by: Patrick Gorman / ODI / CC BY-NC

LONDON — The U.K. international development secretary Rory Stewart has moved to fulfill his early promise to do more on climate change by vowing to double aid spending for climate and the environment to more than £2 billion ($2.5 billion) over the next five years.

“I’d like to double the amount that we spend on climate and the environment because we are facing a climate cataclysm. Quite literally, the ice shelf is going 10 times more quickly than people expected, we’re about to lose maybe a million species on Earth, and that’s even before you count the fact that 100 million more people will be in poverty unless we tackle this,” Stewart told Sky News on Tuesday.

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The DFID chief, who took over the department four weeks ago, singled out climate change as an early priority, though some on social media have questioned his seemingly patchy voting record on climate and the environment.

With the U.K. lurching toward another change of leadership, it is also not clear how much longer he will be in the role. Stewart himself is among those campaigning to take over as prime minister.

The plan announced this week is to double the amount DFID spends on climate and environment by 2025, up from the £1.1 billion it is expected to spend on these issues next year.

No clues were given as to how and where the money will come from or how and where it will be spent. But environmentalists and some within the aid industry welcomed the news.

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Andrew Scott, head of the Climate and Energy Programme at the Overseas Development Institute think tank, said Stewart is “right to highlight the climate crisis will impoverish people and undo progress in human development,” and offered a number of suggestions for how to spend the extra money.

“It should be spent on supporting poor countries to transition to clean energy, to build resilience to climate change, and to conserve nature which can be provided in ways that reduce poverty and inequality, as well as address the environmental crises,” he said.

Helena Wright, senior policy adviser at think tank E3G, which focuses on sustainable development, urged the U.K. to prioritize climate finance across government.

"This is welcome news. Climate finance must become a higher priority if the U.K. is going to fully support developing countries facing the impacts of climate change,” she said, adding that “with the world facing an emergency, climate needs to be mainstreamed through all public spending.”

About the author

  • Sophie Edwards

    Sophie Edwards is a Reporter for Devex based in London covering global development news including global education, water and sanitation, innovative financing, the environment along with other topics. She has previously worked for NGOs, the World Bank and spent a number of years as a journalist for a regional newspaper in the U.K. She has an MA from the Institute of Development Studies and a BA from Cambridge University.