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

Written evidence submitted by LTS International Ltd

Executive Summary

The amount of information available to make an assessment on the extent to which UK Aid exacerbates environmental degradation and the impacts of and responses to climate change is limited. This is because the latter is a relatively ‘new’ subject of policy and aid discourse and environmental protection has not received a great deal of attention over the past decade (relative to social sectors). DFID is considered a thought leader in development aid which enables it to use UK ’s skills in these fields to positively influence international development efforts. The efforts to mainstream environmental protection and climate change into UK Aid programmes are a work in progress: it is important that climate change is seen as a stressor on all aspects of DFID’s work and not only in environment or as a separate sector or issue. It presents a systemic problem that needs a systemic response.


1. LTS International Ltd. (LTS) is an international development consulting company, established in 1973 and currently involved in providing advice in the areas of climate change adaptation and mitigation, particularly in Eastern and Southern Africa as well as advice, evaluation and management of environmental (land, water, forest, biodiversity) initiatives. This includes initiatives for a number of UK Government Departments. LTS is an SME in a highly competitive aid/development market dominated by large – often multi-national - companies. LTS is employee owned and as a team are passionate about development and building capacity in developing countries for sustainable growth. Patrick Abbot is Managing Director of LTS. Neither I nor LTS have privileged access to UK Aid evaluations or programme memoranda in which details of project environmental appraisals and environmental impact are available.


· Whether UK aid avoids exacerbating environmental degradation and worsening climate change;

2. I am not aware of any evaluations on the impact of UK Aid on environmental degradation and climate change unless covered under more comprehensive assessments . However, screening procedures have been (and are being) developed and introduced (such as ORCHID [Opportunities and Risks from Climate Change and Disasters] /CRiSTAL [ Community Based Risk Screening Tool - Adaptation and Livelihoods ]) to help assess the potential impact of development programmes and to re-orient them to be more sensitive of climate change – particularly in the context of enhancing resilience or capacity for adaptation.

3. I do not have privileged access to internal UK Government procedures but e very initiative over a certain amount used to require an environmental analysis – I assume this is still the case . Most of DFID’s bilateral work is strategic (supporting policies and institutions) and often in a pooled funding context; as such it is often difficult to attribute downstream impacts to specific DFID initiatives.

4. Over the past 10 years it is safe to say that DFID has prioritised social protection and governance (health, education, governance and financial management) in its spending and one may argue that this has little (direct) impact on climate change or environmental degradation. However what it also means is there have been very few initiatives to actively reduce environmental degradation and mitigate the impacts of climate change on the poor.

· How well the Aid programme manages the tensions between boosting economic growth and environmental protection;

5. In many of the countries in which DFID works a healthy (functioning) natural environment is critical to effective long term development because of the importance of water, soil and renewable energy in driving that development.

6. UK Aid has supported nationally-driven country priorities, which are presented in poverty reduction or economic growth strategies . There is nearly always a mention of the environment in these national documents, but, from a legislative perspective, environmental protection legislation is often subsidiary to industrial and agricultural development legislation. Some of the m ore recent poverty reduction or economic growth strategies explicitly mention climate change – which could be a reflection on its growing political profile internationally and/or due the early impacts of climate change on development priorities in the relevant countries. However, many developing country governments have a range of immediate and pressing priorities, and issues of climate change adaptation, mitigation and low carbon energy need to compete with issues of delivery of basic services (health, clean water, education, human rights).

7. The conventional view has been that a trade off exists between economic growth and environmental protection – however, the development of new technologies and a realisation that ‘alternative’ growth paths that rely less on the unsustainable exploitation of natural resources - have allowed the these conventional approaches to be challenged. But, i n most countries, ministries or authorities responsible for environmental protection remain weak and under resourced. I do not have specific statistics on the levels of resourcing.

8. I know of some support to the forestry sectors (e.g. in Nepal , Cameroon , Indonesia ), although broader environmental protection (e.g. water resources) and environmental regulation is limited. I believe there may be s ome indirect projects through Environment Agency and Water Aid and ofcourse through funds (such as Darwin Initiative) to broader biodiversity conservation.

· The extent to which UK Aid programmes address the environmental causes of poverty, and the extent to which environmental protection and climate change mitigation and adaptation are prioritised in those programmes. This includes whether financing mechanisms under Government influence (Export Credit Guarantee Department support, the Government’s shareholding in banks, investments by the Commonwealth Development Corporation, etc) fully supports environmental protection and climate change action in the developing world.

9. I do not have any data from which to form an opinion on the extent to which U.K. Government finance mechanisms support environmental protection and climate change action in the developing world. There are only very few DFID programmes that I am aware of, that address the environmental causes of poverty. The work is focused in the right direction in that it tends to deal with the root causes of problems: effective governance and planning that aims to reduce corruption and enhance the application of national environmental laws. There are specific funds, such as grant funds and direct grants to UK NGOs and research institutions that enable these organisations to provide specific capacity building support to environmental protection and climate change related organisations in developing countries; this project type capacity building is usually most effective when supported in parallel with national – governance , planning and institutional level support.

10. Much of UK support for climate change mitigation and adaptation is channelled through multi-lateral mechanisms (managed by the organisations like the multi-lateral development banks). In this context, the role of the UK needs to be seen in the context of the international response to climate change and it is my opinion the UK plays a positive and leading role in shaping the international development agenda .

· The extent to which environmental protection and climate change mitigation and adaptation have been mainstreamed in the Government’s Aid programmes, including how well DfID’s systems take account of DEFRA’s policies on Biodiversity and DECC’s policies on climate change.

11. I do not know the extent to which the efforts of the central policy unit in DFID have managed to mainstream climate change into DFIDs Aid programmes. My impression is that this is an ongoing task. I am not aware of environmental protection being mainstreamed into DFID programmes beyond the environmental appraisal at design stage .

12. That ‘Climate chan ge’ is seen as a separate issue suggests it is not yet mainstreamed into other, ongoing programmes. However, climate change is a multi-faceted problem and it may not necessarily be as simple as to mainstream it into other programmes – it may be that a fundamentally different sort of programme – one that deals with more systemic, transformative issues may be needed as a response. Thinking ‘outside the box’ is something DFID has, traditionally, been good at and may have a comparative advantage compared to fellow development partners.

13. With respect to the issues of DFID and DECC/Defra policies – whilst there are common overlaps between these policies, there are also significant differences which create tensions between them. This is not surprising when one considers their different mandates. DFID has a mission to eliminate poverty, DECC emissions reductions and low carbon energy and DEFRA’s principally domestic (English) mandate.

14. For example, I have not seen where issues of direct and virtual water use by UK consumers of fruit and vegetables raised by Defra has been reflected in UK Aid programmes supporting sustainable agriculture or water policies, except indirectly perhaps through support to fair trade. These are issues that are taken up by UK conservation organisations in a lobby / advocacy capacity. However, issues of water ‘offsetting’, carbon ‘offsetting’ and biodiversity ‘offsetting’ are issues that require mechanisms that will work between developed and developing countries and DFID could certainly have an important role brokering a mechanism given their comparative advantage in understanding the needs and capacities of developing nations to manage such mechanisms.

15. A related but separate issue (as it pertains to the application on UK policy abroad) refers to the UK (private sector) investments which represent significant investments in developing countries (whether in the agriculture, land use or industry sector) . How are the UK policies on green investment for UK companies applied when these companies are investing in developing countries: how ethical is the trade, how sensitive is it to future needs with respect to climate change?


"We would be especially interested in what you regard as best practice for managing the environmental impacts of development projects and programs and mainstreaming the environment and climate change within development.  We realise that you have worked with DFID before so we would also be interested in any of your observations on DFID’s policy and practice in this area." 

· Best practice for managing the environmental impacts of development projects and programs

16. A comprehensive environmental / climate appraisal of the intended initiative during design phase, including potential relations to other initiatives.

17. There are already t ools for this that are based on previous research and practice. I am lead to believe this already exists.

18. The climate appraisals should consider both risks and opportunities and ensure that the programme does not increase vulnerability to climate change.

19. Establish effective m onitoring frameworks including the use of independent assessments, ( 3 rd party mid-term reviews and ex post evaluations ) to monitor impact . I believe that most programmes already have some sort of evaluation process both during and after.

20. One facet of much development is that there is insufficient learning from experiences of the past – including where things go wrong - or could have gone better – and these are where learning can be strongest i f the process is handled well enough. One of the reasons may be that the sector specialists type posts no longer exist in the way they once did, so the institutional memory in the department has been degraded.

21. With climate change – and the spectre of a constantly moving baseline – the need for real time learning and real time evaluation becomes even more relevant, if the organisation can ‘handle’ such an approach (i.e. can adapt on a real time basis). There is considerable expertise in the UK that could be used to advise and support the DFID.

· Mainstreaming the environment and climate change within development

22. C limate C hange is all pervasive, multi-faceted, and should be included in as many areas as possible in the short-term it will add an additional stressor on existing social and environmental systems - it will affect education, health, social protection, human rights , agriculture and so on, not only the environment sectors. Appraisals and climate screening mechanisms that exist may help mainstream environment and climate change into existing/pending programmes. But, climate change is not a sector : in the longer term it will have systemic impacts and so there is need for us to respond in a systemic way. It may mean different sorts of programmes therefore – that are multi-functional and adaptive. DFID is perhaps one of the few agencies (compared to other bilateral donors) that can manage such flexible mechanisms.

23. There need to be resources for building resilience in the short- term and adaptation in the longer- term. This also means h elping people and institutions deal with uncertainty – it is a paradox in that change is happening b ut that change is unpredictable (particularly in the short term) .

24. If one is determined to mainstream environment into development, then one would consider national and regional priorities that developing states and their regional entities / economic unions have with respect to the environment , support them to understand better their environmental needs and first raise the profile of the environment in national planning, so that the external develo pment support may respond to that greater demand .

25. The other potential way of mainstreaming environment is though market based incentives (such as those being developed for forestry /carbon by DFID /EU) but for other aspects such as water and biodiversity. Support for the development of mechanisms that introduce new finances and incentives into such key environmental sectors may present opportunities.

· Observations on DFID’s policy and practice in this area.

26. Observation is that , relative to other donor countries, DFID has been equally rapid to respond to the political agenda of climate change adaptation and mitigation. It has contributed to a range of multi-lateral funds. I am not convinced that these multi-lateral efforts have proven as effective in terms of efficiency and timeliness of delivery compared to bilateral and some regional fun ding initiatives, but I have no objective evidence to support this: it is merely anecdotal, based on discussions with peers in developing countries.

Recommendations for action

Any recommendations for action by the Government or others which the submitter would like the committee to consider for inclusion in its report to the House.

27. UK Aid should build on its and UK ’s comparative advantage
thought leadership in development policy .
– H igh quality skills in environmental protection and climate change technologies and techniques.
Established long term relations with a number of countries (e.g. Commonwealth countries) where a constructive engagement can support ‘green’ growth trajectories and support provided for international lesson learning and experience sharing.
- work with UK
financing mechanisms and private sector to ensure investment supports environmental protection and builds resilience to climate change.

28. UK delivers its Aid through a range of mechanisms (bilateral, multi-lateral, through NGOs, through pooled funding mechanisms). I believe there is now a new commission responsible for monitoring aid and it would be useful to undertake an assessment of the different modalities/mechanisms used with respect to climate change and environmental protection so that our precious taxes can be directed in a way that maximises impact.

1 February 2011