The Catholic agency Progressio has welcomed a pledge by the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, to introduce new legislation to ensure the UK government spends 0.7 per cent of national income on international development aid to the world’s poorest countries - but says says that funding to help the world’s poor adapt to the effects of climate change must also be made a top priority.
Progressio’s Advocacy Manager, Tim Aldred, declared yesterday: “At a time when everyone is talking about cuts, we strongly welcome continued commitment to the world’s poor. As we deal with the aftermath of the fiscal crisis, we know that it is ordinary people in countries like Honduras and Malawi who are suffering most – and it’s vital they are not forgotten. In a globalised world, the UK’s actions - on finance, trade and aid - have profound impact around the world. Legislation would make it clear that aid for the poorest people is not an optional policy choice, but is about meeting fundamental responsibilities.”
He continued: “However, we must head off any risk that this aid allocation could in future be "spun" as the new money which is so desperately needed to help poor communities adapt to the effects of climate change. Let’s be absolutely clear: money to help poor communities tackle changing weather patterns which are causing more frequent and extreme events such as drought and storms must be found outside the 0.7 per cent - to do otherwise would be to fail the world’s poor. Tackling climate change or poverty is not an option. We must do both."
The agency says that many poor people with whom Progressio works in 11 developing countries are already experiencing the devastating effects of climate change.
In Ecuador, one small-scale farmer recently told Progressio: “The seasons used to be much more regular but now everything has totally changed. You don’t know when it’s going to rain; it’s cold when it should be hot.” He added: “We are having to learn how to cope with the new climate – we must think ahead and make sure we are prepared.”
The organisation (formerly known as the Catholic Institute for International Relations) is calling for a global allocation of at least US$150 bilion (£94 billion) to help poor communities adapt to climate change in addition to overseas aid allocations as part of the platform of British Overseas NGOs for Development (BOND).