Devon cabinet backs cut down version of Labour’s climate change and fossil fuel motion

A progressive motion on Climate Change and Fossil Fuel Projects will go to February’s full council meeting at Devon County Council (DCC), after Cabinet recommended it should consider a modified  version.

If passed, the motion would see DCC to call on the Government to make two significant changes to their funding of fossil fuel projects:

  • end all financing for new foreign fossil fuel projects immediately or risk undermining its own commitment to tackling the global climate crisis and
  • change the mandate of its credit agency, UK Export Finance (UKEF), to stop offering billions of pounds in financial support to companies that bid for work on fossil fuel projects overseas despite a pledge to be carbon neutral at home.

Early this year, an investigation by Newsnight in conjunction with Greenpeace, found that UKEF – which works alongside the Department for International Trade  – had helped to finance oil and gas projects that, when complete, will emit up to 69 million tonnes of carbon a year; that equates to nearly a sixth of the total annual carbon emissions of the UK. 

An earlier investigation into UKEF by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee in June 2019 had already highlighted the environmental implications of financing provided through UKEF and its apparent conflict with the UK’s international development and climate change targets. 

Cllr Atkinson called for the UK to lead by example by urgently aligning our stated net zero priorities at home with our practices abroad in view of our COP presidency next year.

DCC’s Cabinet shared their concern about the environmental consequences of UK trade finance support directed towards the fossil fuel sector. Their motion calls on the Government to accelerate the change in policy and approach through UKEF, to achieve consistency with their international commitment to tackle climate change, as well as the UK’s own net zero carbon target and the recently published Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution.

Welcoming the motion, Finola O’Neill, Secretary of environmental group SERA Devon, said
“we applaud the DCC cross party approach to tackling climate change, as we move through and beyond the pandemic. As we adapt to the Covid pandemic, the biggest global challenge in a century, we observe the climate and ecological emergency lurking in the background. We have a time-critical opportunity to make this turbulent period a launchpad for the change that was already needed to deal with our planet’s disturbance. We do not have the time or money to get this wrong. We can not use public money to fund a fossil fuel industry that has no future in a rapidly warming world. That is an investment that leads to a dead end.”

Helena Whitten, co-founder of Devon Towns and Parishes for Climate Action added

“The UK is hosting the G7 summit this summer and presiding over the COP26 this autumn. We have the chance to show global leadership and vision, as an emerging independent player in the international arena. The climate and ecological emergency (CEE) is the next big challenge of the coming decade, one that matches the Pandemic in its impact on global health and the economy. We have rapidly learnt many useful lessons during the pandemic which will stand us in good stead to tackle the CEE. Following science, acting early and cooperating internationally are just a few.”

Cllr Atkinson added comments
“There can only be one way to emerge from the pandemic and that is with a green recovery that follows the solutions determined by our climate and environmental scientists. This motion forms part of this path that will aid Britain to find their feet on this new world stage as we face the challenges of the next decade together.”

The Climate Change and Fossil Fuel motion will be considered at Devon County Council’s full council meeting on Thursday February 18th. 

Additional information:

Devon County Council Cabinet Minutes:

Devon County Council Cabinet Officers’ briefings