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.


Deforestation and biodiversity loss are topical areas of considerable public interest, where the UK government has made strong policy commitments. It is also one area of the global efforts to address climate change widely considered to be lagging.

Currently, just 3% of international climate finance to reduce emissions goes towards protecting forests and other ecosystems, even though tropical forest loss currently accounts for 8% of the world’s annual carbon dioxide emissions. In addition, biodiversity is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history and the rate of species extinctions is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world now likely.

The UK’s climate portfolio includes a wide range of measures relating to the protection of forests and biodiversity. ICAI estimates that the current portfolio includes more than £580 million in bilateral aid commitments related to deforestation and biodiversity, including headline programmes addressing illegal timber, forest governance and sustainable land use. An additional £1.3 billion in climate-related bilateral programming has recently been announced, which includes a £220 million International Biodiversity Fund to protect endangered species and habitats and a £100 million Biodiverse Landscapes Fund to protect mangroves and forests.


The review will evaluate how well UK aid has helped to identify solutions and mobilise finance for tackling the challenges of deforestation and biodiversity loss. Given the UK’s long-standing engagement in the area and its commitment to leading international efforts on climate change, the review will examine both the direct results of UK programming and the government’s wider efforts to galvanise international action. It will explore efforts to ensure the sustainability of forests, conserve biodiversity and end the illegal wildlife trade.

The review will cover both programmes dedicated to protecting forests and conserving biodiversity, and those identified by the government as having elements that are relevant to these objectives. It follows a 2019 ICAI review of the UK’s International Climate Finance (ICF) for which it awarded a green-amber score. This review will extend its scope beyond the response to climate change to include scrutiny of biodiversity conservation and combatting the illegal wildlife trade, while providing an opportunity to assess progress on a recommendation which is still outstanding.

This review aims to provide timely insights to the government, given the UK’s leadership of international events in 2021 including COP26, at which nature will be one of five key priorities, and the UK’s presidency of the G7, with the global climate response expected to be on the agenda.

The review will cover the work of three government departments: the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the former Department for International Development (DFID), since merged as part of the creation of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

Review questions

  1. Relevance: How well are UK aid programmes related to halting deforestation and preventing biodiversity loss responding to global, national and community needs and priorities?
  2. Coherence: How internally and externally coherent are UK aid programmes aimed at halting deforestation and preventing biodiversity loss?
  3. Effectiveness: To what extent has UK aid contributed to halting deforestation and preventing biodiversity loss?


Research for this review began in October 2020, with publication expected in July 2021.


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