The impact of UK overseas aid on environmental protection and climate change adaptation and mitigation

Written evidence submitted by the Overseas Development Institute

The following submission compiles contributions from experts from the Overseas Development Institute in response to Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry into the impact of UK overseas aid. The contributions address three principle areas relating to: UK aid’s role in avoiding environmental degradation and climate change; the management of the UK’s contributions to the International Climate Finance Fund; and recommendations for addressing aspects of gender for climate change action. In doing so, the submission responds directly to the inquiry’s call for views in relation to particular aid projects/programmes specifically aimed to tackle environmental/climate change issues that have either succeeded or failed to meet objectives. Please find the above mentioned contributions below.

Question: whether UK aid avoids exacerbating environmental degradation and worsening climate change

Neil Bird

Research Fellow

Climate Change, Forestry and Environments Programme

1. Response: This response looks at UK aid that has been targeted at improving environmental outcomes. It does not consider the environmental impact of all UK aid. I would highlight in particular the move from project–based interventions to programmatic support is showing signs of positive, sustainable impact. The message is clear: the focus on aid effectiveness appears to offer potential for sustainable improvements in environmental management in aid receiving countries.

2. An evaluation of DFID’s environmental programme in 2000 concluded that only around half of the projects reviewed were partially successful or better (DFID, 2000). A special report by the European Court of Auditors in 2005 recorded that EC-funded environment projects had frequently fallen short of their objectives, noting in addition that project-based support had inherent difficulties in ‘achieving significant impacts and assuring financial viability’ (European Court of Auditors, 2006). The record of aid delivery for environmental protection is not a strong one.

3. Considerable amounts of UK aid that have had the objective of addressing environmental protection have been delivered to government agencies through projects, whose expenditure has often been ‘off-budget’ [1] and hence had poor linkages to national budgetary systems.

4. The recent literature on the environment and aid effectiveness (including work undertaken by ODI - see references) suggests that the shift to programmatic support, through the use both sector and general budget support, has provided a number of opportunities to improve environmental sustainability. They include:

· Increased discretionary public spending on the environment - Government spending on environmental protection is universally low, being between 1% and 2.5% of public spending in many countries (Lawson and Bird, 2008). This limited allocation of the national budget means that environmental agencies are often under-funded with insufficient resources to fulfil their statutory functions.

· Strengthened national budgetary discipline - The drive towards tighter fiscal controls offers considerable opportunity for the implementation of a number of analytical tools that have remained relatively undeveloped to-date. The implementation of public environment expenditure reviews and the application of Strategic Environmental Assessments to government policies, programmes and plans is leading to a stronger factual and analytical basis for DFID in its dialogue with recipient countries on environmental budgeting and policy issues.

· Greater continuity in the financing of environmental programmes - Policy prioritisation, sequencing and implementation is an inherently medium to long-term exercise and therefore the medium-term perspective offered by the introduction of Medium Term Expenditure Frameworks within government spending plans has much to offer environmental programmes (which themselves are often long-term in nature).

· New forms of policy dialogue between all development actors - Sector working groups (including those sectors dealing with the environment) have been established under budget support arrangements and present a significant new forum for policy discussion and analysis.

· Increased transparency over government decision making - Increased involvement of the legislature over executive decisions offers the prospect of greater transparency concerning national environmental programmes. The move towards output-related budgeting also provides the potential for increased transparency of government decision-making, as when spending plans are subject to parliamentary scrutiny.

5. The Ghana natural resources and environmental governance (NREG) programme – emerging best practice: Ghana has a long history of support from DFID in the natural resources sectors, some of it going back well over 20 years. Substantial off-budget donor funding has been provided to support Ghana’s national environmental agencies through a succession of project-level interventions. However, this led to weak coordination with other donors and raised alignment concerns between donor priorities and those of the national government and civil society. The Ghana Environmental Sector study (SNV, 2007) highlighted that in 2005/06 ten international agencies were supporting 28 separate projects implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency. These projects had different reporting, contracting and procurement standards making it difficult for donors to be well coordinated. At the same time they duplicated government’s own systems.

6. Development assistance to Ghana has now shifted away from project support towards financial support delivered directly into the national budget. Harmonised Multi-Donor Budget Support (MDBS) was introduced in 2003 and this was has been complemented by a new sector-based initiative in 2008: the Natural Resources and Environmental Governance (NREG) programme. This is a sector programme supported by the World Bank, the EC and a number of bilateral agencies including DFID, with funding channelled through the Ministry of Finance to support the forestry and wildlife, mining, and environment protection ministries.

7. Two years into the implementation of the programme, there is an emerging consensus among both government and development partners that strong progress is being made. This progress is both broad ranging across all three sub-sectors involved, and is tackling some of the more challenging aspects of environmental governance, related to natural resources revenue flows and reducing social conflict around natural resource utilisation. Perhaps most importantly, there is a sense within the participating government agencies of ownership over the programme. This is in contrast to some preceding externally-supported initiatives in the sector. This sense of national ownership provides the best foundation upon which future environmental protection can be built.


Bird, N.M. and Cabral, L. (2007). Changing aid delivery and the environment: can General Budget Support be used to meet environmental objectives? ODI Briefing Paper 17. ODI, London. Available at:

DFID. (2000). Environmental evaluation synthesis study. EVSUM EV626. 6 pp. DFID, London. Available at:

European Court of Auditors. (2006). Special report No.6/2006. The environmental aspects of the Commission’s development cooperation. Official Journal of the European Union, 235, 29.9.06. 39 pp. Available at:

Lawson, A. and Bird, N.M. (2008). Government institutions, public expenditure and the role of development partners: meeting the new environmental challenges of the developing world. Final report to DFOD/CIDA/UNEP. 79 pp. ODI, London. Available at:

SNV. (2007). Ghana Environment Sector Study (GESS). Synthesis Report. SNV, Accra, Ghana. 66 pp.

Question: how the UK’s contributions to the international climate finance fund will be managed

8. Response: The UK has contributed to supporting climate change in aid receiving countries since 2007 through the Environmental Transformation Fund, International window (ETF-IW), an initiative of the previous Labour government. The ETF-IW focused on poverty reduction, environmental protection and helping developing countries tackle climate change. In the course of its development, all ETF-IW funding was allocated to three multilateral funds: the World Bank-administered Climate Investment Funds (CIFs), the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), also administered by the World Bank, and the Congo Basin Forest Fund (CBFF), administered by the African Development Bank.

9. This initiative appears to have been re-named, and broadened in scope, by the present Coalition government as the International Climate Fund (ICF). The ICF has retained the same across-Whitehall Board as was instituted for the ETF-IW, consisting of senior officials from DFID, DECC, FCO and the Treasury, and is accountable to the Secretaries of State of DFID and DECC, and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. The DFID official chairs the Board.

10. However, the transparency of these arrangements has been poor, with UK pledges, commitments and disbursements to these funds not being well reported. As a result, it has been difficult for civil society to follow the UK’s strategic direction on international climate finance. This is becoming more pressing as the international climate finance architecture increases in complexity.

11. It is noteworthy that considerable UK resources have gone into strengthening the Climate Investment Funds architecture administered through the World Bank, rather than aligning behind European initiatives instigated by the European Commission (such as the Global Climate Change Alliance), or those overseen by the United Nations (including the Adaptation Fund). The reasoning of this choice has not been made public and has heightened concerns over the role to be played by the traditional donor implementing agencies in the management of climate finance.

12. The UK’s contribution to international climate finance is further complicated by the creation of the Green Climate Fund at the UNFCCC COP meeting in Cancun. The design of this fund will be determined over the next nine months by a transitional committee, which will report its recommendations to the next COP meeting in Durban, South Africa. It is not known whether the UK will have a presence on this committee, although it is likely that the UK view will be represented by an EU nominated person.

13. Any UK contribution to the Green Climate Fund should be guided by the experience of development finance, both its successes and shortcomings. One of the major lessons of aid effectiveness is the recognition that national ownership over the development process is paramount. This suggests that one-off project interventions supported by external finance that are not embedded within some national priority setting process are unlikely to succeed. This implies that the UK’s contribution to climate finance should move towards programmatic forms of support, with external finance underpinning national sector programmes that display coherence in terms of policy, strategy, budgeting and coordination.


Bird, N.M. (2011). The challenge of securing European coherence on climate finance. EDC2020 Policy Brief 7, EADI, Bonn. Available at:

Bird, N.M.; Brown, J. and Schalatek, L. (2011). Design challenges for the Green Climate Fund. Climate Finance Policy Brief 4. ODI, London and Heinrich Böll Stiftung North America , Washington, DC. Available at:

Topic area: Gender and Climate Change

Paola Pereznieto,

Research Fellow

Social Development Programme

Dr Caroline Harper,

Research Fellow

Head of Programme, Social Development Programme

Mainstreaming gender in development policy and practice is, in theory, standard practice within national government, international and non-governmental frameworks. However attention to gender and equity has somewhat lagged behind in climate change research, programming, national policy-making and international negotiations (Masika, ed. 2002; Wamukonya and Skutsch, 2002; Nelson et al, 2002; Cannon, 2002; Skutsch, 2002; Dankelman, 2008; FAO, 2007; Lambrou and Grazia, 2007; Terry, 2009). It is widely recognised that an inter-sectoral approach would not only facilitate an increased understanding of the socio-economic dimensions of climate change adaptation but would also help to define those demographic groups most affected and least resilient to climate change and variability. Nevertheless, there remains insufficient exploration, information and evidence on the gender-differentiated nature of climate change impacts, particularly at the local level. This document outlines the salient themes relating to gender and climate change, making the case for a more integrated and systemic gendered approach to climate change policy and programming.

Gendered dimensions of climate change

An analysis of the social factors that shape and contribute to poverty is essential to facilitating pro-poor climate change adaptation, particularly, in this case, for revealing the robust correlation between gender inequality and poverty (Morrison, Raju and Sinha, 2008; Neefjes et al, 2009; Neefjes and Nelson, in Dankelmann, forthcoming). As such development and climate change can only be equitable if women’s empowerment and the tackling of gender inequality is placed centre-stage. As a cross-cutting issue, gender analysis also reveals other types of discriminations such as ethnicity, caste, class and age – essential to localised understandings of the impacts of climate change and variability. An improved understanding of the unique vulnerabilities and adaptation potential of different social groups to climate change provides important insight into how to build upon their capabilities. Therefore, facilitating greater participation by these groups in climate policy spaces and decision-making is both urgent and important (Nelson, 2010).

Gender and Climate Change Impacts

Gender inequalities exist in all societies and shape the ways in which climate change impacts play out in society. Women have lesser access to participation in policy and decision-making (FAO, 2007) and fewer resources to cope with climate shocks and stresses. Men and women have different access to resources, including physical resources like land, social resources like networks, and financial resources like income-generating work and credit. In times of change, they will have different options and ‘safety nets’ for coping with change (FAO, 2007). Furthermore, women tend to be more involved with climate sensitive resources such as drinking water and fuel wood (FAO, 2007). A recent study by the Women’s Environmental Network (WEN, 2010), concludes that because of gendered social roles, they are more likely to:

- die in climate change-related disasters, experience increasing work, income losses, negative health impacts, and suffer from violence and harassment following events

- experience increased burdens of water and fuel collection, and resulting health problems, due to increased incidence of drought or other changes in climate

- suffer from violence, including sexual violence, in resource conflicts

- suffer as a result of intended solutions to the problem of climate change, such as forestry projects and biofuel production due to gendered differential resource entitlements, roles within the household and types of livelihood responsibilities

There are also instances in which men will be more affected than women by climate change. For example the gendered division of labour in Cameroon may mean, for example, that male fisherfolk may be increasingly exposed to river blindness (the epidemiology of which will be changed by climate change) and more so than women in the household that do not fish (Nelson, 2010). It is therefore critical that men need to be involved in gender equality work, including in adaptation to climate change (Nelson, 2010).

Gender and Climate Policy

Until recently, the international policy discourse, including the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol has hardly included consideration of gender issues (e.g. Skutsch, 2002; Rodenberg, 2009). The invisibility or lack of attention to gender issues in the international negotiations and in national policy making (Nelson et al, 2002) has several causes. None of the myriad and diverse new climate financing initiatives are gender sensitive, having failed to incorporate gender guidelines and criteria in operating procedures and project outlines, and a range of gender mainstreaming tools could be taken up (Schalatek, 2009). However, political commitment at all levels to take gender seriously in combating climate change would make the most difference in achieving fair and gender-equitable finance mechanisms (Schalatek, 2009).


At present there is insufficient understanding of how the impacts of climate change will affect women and men, and different social groups, yet it is clear that there will be differentiated impacts and that these are likely to intersect with and overlay, or even worsen, existing patterns of inequality. Better integration of gender analysis and support for the empowerment of women and marginalised groups across all adaptation and mitigation policy-making, planning and programmes not only ensures equitable pro-poor development but is also essential for the type of localised understanding of climate change imperative to the success and efficiency of global initiatives (Nelson, 2010).


Cannon T. "Gender and climate hazards in Bangladesh", pp 45-50 in Rachel Masika (ed.) Gender, Development, and Climate Change, Oxfam, Oxford 2002; pp. 47-48

Dankelman, I. (2008). Enhancing Women’s Reproductive Rights in an era of Climate Change. Gender, Climate Change and Human Security: lessons for population policies. Paper presented at the EuroNGOs conference in Lyon, 2 October 2008. Radboud University, Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) and Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF).

Dankelman, I (2010) ‘Gender and Climate Change: An Introduction’. Earthscan Publications.

FAO (2007). People - centred climate change adaptation: integrating gender issues - Awareness of climate change from a gendered perspective. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Available at

Lambrou, Y. and Grazia, P. (2006) ‘Gender: The Missing Component of The Response to Climate Change’, FAO, Rome, Italy

Masika, R. (ed.) Gender, Development and Climate Change, Oxfam, Oxford 2002

Morrison, A. Raju, D. and Sinha, N. (2008) ‘Gender Equality Is Good for The Poor’, Poverty in Focus (13), IPC

Neefjes, K., Hai, V.M., Nelson, V., Dankelman, I, Anh, T.V., Fitzgerald, I (2009) ‘Responding to climate change in Viet Nam: Opportunities for improving gender equality. A policy discussion paper’. Ha Noi, December 2009, UN and Oxfam in Viet Nam. Available at:

Nelson, V., Meadows, K., Cannon, T., Morton, J., Martin, A. (2002) ‘Uncertain predictions, invisible impacts, and the need to mainstream gender in climate change adaptations’, Gender and Development, 10, 51-59.

Nelson, V. (2010) ‘Gender, Social Difference and Climate Change: A Thematic Review’, Commissioned by Overseas Development Institute (ODI)

Rodenberg, B. (2009) ‘Climate change adaptation from a Gender Perspective: A cross-cutting analysis of development policy instruments’. German Development Institute Accessed at:$FILE/DP%2024.2009.pdf

Schalatek, L. (2009). Gender and Climate Finance: Double Mainstreaming for Sustainable Development. Washington: Henrich Böll Foundation. Available at:

Skutsch M.M., "Protocols, treaties, and action: the ‘climate change process’ viewed through gender spectacles", pp. 30-39 in Rachel Masika (ed.) Gender, Development, and Climate Change, Oxfam, Oxford 2002; p. 33

Terry, G. 2009. "No Climate Justice Without Gender Justice: An Overview of the Issues." Gender and Development 17(1):5-18

Wamukonya, N. and Skutch, M. (2002). "Is there a gender angle in the climate negotiations?" Energy and Environment. 13(1): 115-124. Available from

2 February 2011

[1] Off-budget funds : international funding received by national public agencies that is not fully integrated with national systems of budgetary control effected through the Consolidated Fund under the direction of the Ministry of Finance and appropriated through the legislature.