International climate finance: UK aid for halting deforestation and preventing irreversible biodiversity loss

A review examining the effectiveness of UK aid in halting deforestation and preventing biodiversity loss.

Score: Green/Amber
  1. Status: Completed
  2. Published: 15 July 2021
  3. Type: Full review
  4. Subject: Climate change and biodiversity
  5. Assessment: Green/Amber
  6. Location: Colombia, Ghana, Indonesia
  7. Lead commissioner: Tamsyn Barton
  8. SDGs covered:Life on land

Read the review


ICAI has scored the UK aid’s approach to halting deforestation and preventing irreversible biodiversity loss as green-amber, meaning there is satisfactory achievement in most areas, but partial achievement in others. We made five recommendations for the government.


  • UK programmes have successfully targeted the most relevant drivers of deforestation and biodiversity loss
  • The UK has played a significant role in promoting global cooperation on the drivers of deforestation and biodiversity loss
  • The UK has influenced several multilateral funding bodies to improve focus and capability
  • UK support for NGO advocacy fills a useful niche
  • UK aid has made positive contributions to knowledge, institutions, governance and policies in the case study countries
  • The level of resources devoted to addressing deforestation and biodiversity loss is dwarfed by the scale of the challenge
  • UK efforts on commodity-related deforestation are effective when they adopt a systematic approach
  • The UK’s efforts to halt deforestation and prevent irreversible biodiversity loss lack a coherent, overarching strategy
  • Coordination across government can be good but is not always so, particularly at country level
  • The UK has piloted useful technical interventions and has been willing to take risks
  • Successful pilots have not been scaled up to the extent expected or required
  • The portfolio lacks a strategy to make the most of learning
  • There is not enough systematic evaluation of UK-funded projects and programmes
  • A lack of adequate results metrics makes it difficult to assess the UK’s contribution
  • Some project business cases claim a contribution to reducing deforestation and biodiversity loss without a clear basis
  • Many projects were not sufficiently grounded in evidence of ‘what works’
  • Programmes do not consistently understand and engage with the people that they affect
  • Programmes are not consistently considering or including women


  1. UK bilateral ODA support should have a tighter strategic focus to tackling deforestation and biodiversity loss, concentrating resources to increase impact
  2. All programmes addressing deforestation and biodiversity loss should be monitored and evaluated against common, measurable indicators designed specifically for assessing deforestation and biodiversity impacts.
  3. Independent external evaluations of the bilateral programme should be carried out regularly at programme, country and global levels and then used to shape strategic funding decisions.
  4. UK bilateral programmes should be guided by social impact analysis and safeguarding measures, to maximise the benefits for and minimise negative impacts on local communities, women and vulnerable groups.
  5. Gender issues need greater prioritisation in policies and programming in order to ensure women benefit from investments in forestry and biodiversity.


Read the news story



Published 8 December 2020

Evidence gathering


Review publication

Published 15 July 2021

Government response

Published 13 September 2021

Further scrutiny

Details to be confirmed

ICAI follow-up

Details to be confirmed