Egypt urges Sunak not to ditch UK’s climate pledges – and hopes King Charles can attend COP27

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Egypt has urged new prime minister Rishi Sunak not to ditch the UK’s climate leadership role just weeks before it takes over as host of the UN COP climate talks.

As the Egyptians prepare to host COP27 in November, their lead negotiator told reporters that the UK “[showed] leadership in Glasgow,” where it held the COP26 climate summit this time last year.

“We know that there are challenges, economic challenges that are there, facing the UK and other countries, but we hope that those challenges does not lead to backsliding on the pledges,” ambassador Mohamed Nasr said in response to a question from Sky News.

He also said Egypt “still [hopes]” King Charles will attend this year’s negotiations in Sharm El-Sheikh. The monarch, a longstanding environmentalist, earlier this month pulled out of attending the talks, reportedly following consultation with the-then prime minister Liz Truss.

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King Charles attended COP26 in Glasgow when he was Prince Charles

The invitation is “still there, it’s an open invitation,” the diplomat said.

“He has been a very strong advocate for climate action. He has been a role model for… putting not only his political weight behind the climate change discussion, but also that he has been influencing and giving the right image for how royalty can push for the climate agenda.

“So we hope that he will be there, and we still hope that he can make it and come and come to Sharm El-Sheikh.”

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The diplomat dodged questions on whether US President Joe Biden or China’s President Xi Jinping would attend, but said he hoped they would, since “their cooperation, and their role has always been instrumental in allowing for progress on climate change”.

Ambassador Nasr said the UK was one of the “leading countries” in pledging overseas aid to help developing nations respond to climate change.

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“And we hope that this leadership role continues,” he said, hoping for new cash to pay for adaptation measures in those countries, which could be projects like relocating coastal communities or early warning systems for natural hazards.

Climate finance pledges ‘minimal’ compared to COVID

He said climate finance pledges are “minimal” compared to what was mobilised for the COVID-19 pandemic or “other causes”.

Last year the UK pledged £11.6bn in climate finance over a five-year period. Spending on the pandemic response is estimated to cost at least £310bn.

Mr Nasr said the challenge is less in finding the money but in the “political will and the commitment” to deliver money pledged.

Aid organisations and several MPs are concerned that the aid budget is being squeezed as the UK siphons off some of it to fund the housing of Ukrainian refugees, as opposed to allocating extra funding for the resettlement scheme.

Sarah Champion MP, chair of a committee of MPs that scrutinises aid spending, last week raised concerns that the UK could again cut its aid budget to 0.3% of GNI (gross national income) – having already cut it from 0.7% to 0.5% last year – as the PM seeks to fill a £40bn hole in the country’s finances.

 COP26 President Alok Sharma gestures during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain November 13, 2021. REUTERS/Phil Noble
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COP26 President Alok Sharma

Sharma loses cabinet position

Meanwhile, Alok Sharma MP, held on to his COP presidency role in the cabinet reshuffle but lost his cabinet position, a downgrade in seniority just before COP27.

Appearing before a number of parliamentary committees on Tuesday, Mr Sharma said the government should “explain and demonstrate” how new oil and gas exploration is in line with its climate commitments.

The MPs grilled him on the numerous recent contentious policies, including lifting the ban on fracking and issuing 100 new licences for offshore oil and gas. He said he did not support fracking.

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