UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday that the country would immediately cease all direct official development support for overseas thermal coal mining or coal power plants.
Johnson made the announcement at the first ever UK-Africa Investment Summit held in London Monday, bringing together 21 African countries with UK and African companies to announce a raft of investment deals worth billions of pounds.
According to a joint statement published by the attending parties, “The UK-Africa Investment Summit on 20 January 2020 laid the foundations for new partnerships between the UK and African nations based on trade, investment, shared values and mutual interest.”
However, the biggest announcement of the day was made by the British Prime Minister in his speech opening the Summit, who committed to immediately halt all support for overseas thermal coal mining and coal power plants.
“We all breathe the same air, we live beneath the same sky, and we all suffer when carbon emissions rise and the planet warms,” Johnson said.
“So from today, the British government will no longer provide any new direct official development assistance, investment, export credit or trade promotion for thermal coal mining or coal power plants overseas.
“To put it simply, not another penny of UK taxpayers’ money will be directly invested in digging up coal or burning it for electricity. Instead, we’re going to focus on supporting the transition to lower- and zero-carbon alternatives.”
Johnson, in his typical laissez faire manner, explained that “there’s no point in the UK reducing the amount of coal we burn if we then trundle over to Africa and line our pockets by encouraging African states to use more of it.”
The United Kingdom announced in June of last year its intention to become a net-zero economy by 2050 – the first such pledge made by a major global economy.
As one of her last acts as Prime Minister, Theresa May authorised Energy and Clean Growth Minister Chris Skidmore to sign into law a legally binding target of net-zero emissions by 2050.
“The UK kick-started the Industrial Revolution, which was responsible for economic growth across the globe but also for increasing emissions,” said Skidmore in June.
“Today we’re leading the world yet again in becoming the first major economy to pass new laws to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050 while remaining committed to growing the economy – putting clean growth at the heart of our modern Industrial Strategy.
“We’re pioneering the way for other countries to follow in our footsteps driving prosperity by seizing the economic opportunities of becoming a greener economy.”
The UK-Africa Investment Summit also outlined a package of new initiatives, funding, commercial deals, and partnerships in an effort to increase trade between the UK and Africa, support the development of African countries and their economies – including by creating opportunities to empower women and young people – and mobilise sustainable financing for the continent.
All in all, the announced commercial deals between UK companies and African partners announced at the Summit amounted to £6.5 billion ($A12.3 billion) and included agreements from big-name British firms such as Rolls Royce, GSK, and Diageo.
The joint statement also claimed that “deals worth billions more were made during the day of the Summit” and that the “UK Government also announced over £1.5 billion [($A2.85 billion)] of UK aid-funded initiatives that are expected to create hundreds of thousands of jobs and mobilise over £2.4 billion [($A4.56 billion)] of additional private investment for the continent.”
The United Kingdom will also work to facilitate more new investments into African clean energy projects, such as establishing a new Climate Finance Accelerator programme to work in African countries to promote the flow of green finance.
This new Accelerator will be backed by £10 million ($A19 million) of funding from the UK Government.