Analysis by non-profit organisation Platform, published in collaboration with Friends of the Earth and Christian Aid, reveals the Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget provided more than £2 million for 16 projects in the oil and gas industry between 2016 and 2018.
It states the Prosperity Fund – which supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals as well as the 2015 UK Aid Strategy “by promoting growth and prosperity in developing countries” – backed two projects that explored exporting UK expertise in shale gas regulation in China.
The news comes as the UK’s own regulatory controls on fracking are under criticism from environmental groups and communities exposed to the impacts of the controversial method of extracting shale gas.
The report adds the FCO’s Prosperity Fund also financed projects to expand oil and gas sector capacity in Brazil, Mexico, China, Myanmar and India, representing around 29.2% of the Fund’s overall energy spend.
While the Fund is allowed to be spent on fossil fuels, the organisations believe funding should be completely divested from fossil fuels and “should take into account the need to limit global warming to 1.5ºC and therefore should aim to be near zero in emissions”.
They say: “UK ODA funds should consider how projects can best support a rapid managed decline of oil and gas extraction and use and a just transition for workers and communities dependent on fossil fuel industries.
“There is a well established base of evidence that limiting extraction of new fossil fuels and a managed decline of existing extraction, in the Global North and the Global South alike, is crucial to climate change mitigation and to avoiding catastrophic climate change.”
The FCO said investment in oil and gas supply continues to be required in scenarios that limit global average temperature rise to well below 2°C as shown by research from the International Energy Agency (IEA).
A spokesperson added: “The UK’s aid investment is creating a safer, healthier and more prosperous world and is in the UK’s interest.
“Gas has the potential to be a reliable energy source as countries transition towards a clean energy future and these programmes are aimed at sharing UK expertise to help ensure that their exploration or development of resources like natural gas is done to high environmental standards.”