Rishi Sunak will not attend the COP27 climate summit in Egypt next month, Downing Street has confirmed.
A Number 10 spokeswoman said the prime minister has “other pressing domestic commitments” which will prevent him from attending the climate conference in Sharm El-Sheikh but that Mr Sunak remains “absolutely committed” to supporting the event.
Liz Truss, Mr Sunak’s predecessor, had been expected to attend the UN climate conference in Egypt, which runs from 6-18 November.
“The prime minister is not expected to attend COP27 and this is due to other pressing domestic commitments including preparations for the autumn budget,” the spokeswoman said.
“The UK will be fully represented by other senior ministers as well as the COP President Alok Sharma.”
The spokeswoman also denied that Mr Sunak’s decision not to attend COP27 signalled a downgrading of climate change as a priority by the new administration.
Earlier this week, while moulding his new ministerial top team, the new PM downgraded Mr Sharma’s role so that he will no longer attend cabinet meetings.
Climate minister Graham Stuart was reappointed to his role, but will also no longer attend the top team discussions.
The Number 10 spokesperson said: “We remain committed to net zero and to leading international and domestic action to tackle climate change. The UK is forging ahead of many other countries on net zero.
“We will obviously continue to work closely with Egypt as the hosts of COP27 and to make sure that all countries are making progress on the historic commitments they made at the Glasgow climate pact.”
Labour’s shadow climate secretary Ed Miliband said it was a “big mistake” for Mr Sunak not to attend the climate change summit next month.
“It’s not leadership. It is abdicating leadership not to go to COP27,” he told Sky News.
“We were the president of COP26 and for those people watching who are thinking, yes, climate is important, but there are other issues, actually, if we go hard and fast on clean energy, it isn’t just right for our climate commitments.
“It’s right for cutting energy bills because renewables now the cheapest source of power. It’s right for energy security. It’s right for jobs.
“So this isn’t just wrong on climate grounds, it’s wrong when it comes to energy bills, security and employment.”
Sir Keir Starmer added that a Labour government would “show climate leadership”.
“Britain showing up to work with world leaders is an opportunity to grasp. Not an event to shun,” the Labour leader said.
While Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey added that Mr Sunak’s actions “fly in the face of the UK’s proud record of leading the global fight against climate change”.
Just yesterday, Egypt urged the new PM not to ditch the UK’s climate leadership role.
The Egyptians’ 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, facing the UK and other countries, but we hope that those challenges do 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 Ms Truss.
The invitation is “still there, it’s an open invitation,” the diplomat said.
A government minister has insisted that the King has not been banned from attending the forthcoming COP27 climate summit.
Developing nations will feel betrayed by Sunak’s COP27 snub
Rishi Sunak’s decision not to attend the COP27 UN climate summit in person will be seen by some as an abdication of responsibility at a critical moment in the fight against global warming.
Scientists are warning that the world is still on course for catastrophic temperature rises and that emissions must drop 45% by 2030 instead of rise by 10% as they are currently predicted to do.
The UK used to be one of the few nations on earth with enough clout and commitment to pull parties together and forge new agreements, and although its presidency of the COP26 summit in Glasgow wasn’t perfect, there was real progress.
Those days, it seems, are gone.
Developing nations who relied on the UK to champion their causes will feel betrayed by Mr Sunak’s decision.
It will be a long time before he recovers credibility on the issue of climate change on the international stage.
World leaders made a series of climate pledges at COP26 culminating in an agreement to strengthen emissions-cutting targets for 2030 by the end of next year.
Ending and reversing deforestation, cutting methane emissions, and the journey to net zero were all agreed to at the crucial Glasgow climate summit last year which lasted for two weeks.
On Thursday, Mr Sunak had a call with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and praised his counterpart on his “leadership” in the fight against climate change.
“Discussing shared global challenges, the prime minister praised prime minister Modi’s leadership on tackling climate change and the leaders welcomed opportunities to bolster our security, defence and economic partnership,” a Downing Street spokesperson said.
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