Rishi Sunak’s first big turn after taking over as UK Prime Minister

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson had said yesterday that he would attend the summit. (a file)


Britain’s new prime minister, Rishi Sunak, announced on Wednesday that he will be joining the United Nations climate conference in Egypt after all, after sparking outrage at his refusal to attend the global event early in his tenure.

Sunak said “urgent domestic obligations” would keep him away from COP27 in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh – after he inherited an economic crisis from his predecessor, Liz Truss.

But this raised doubts about Sunak’s interest in the planetary emergency, and critics said the inexperienced leader was missing an opportunity to get off the shoulders of the likes of US President Joe Biden and his European counterparts.

“There is no long-term prosperity without action on climate change. There is no energy without investing in renewables,” Rishi Sunak wrote on Twitter.

“This is why I’m bringing @COP27P next week: to present the legacy of Glasgow to build a safe and sustainable future.”

The Scottish city was the venue for COP26 under the leadership of Truss’ predecessor Boris Johnson, who made climate change and ambitions to make Britain “net zero” in emissions a distinctive policy.

Truss cast doubt on this commitment with her stated skepticism about net zero – and banned King Charles III from attending COP27.

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The new king is a lifelong activist for the environment, and Sunak’s change of mind could revive the debate over whether Britain should allow him to put pressure on the climate issue in Egypt.

The king is scheduled to hold a reception before the COP at Buckingham Palace on Friday for business leaders, activists and politicians, including US climate change envoy John Kerry.

Sunak’s transformation came after Johnson confirmed, in an interview with Sky News broadcast on Tuesday, that he was heading to COP27 at the invitation of Egypt, and it is likely that he has passed Sunak.

Tracey Carty, climate lead for Oxfam Britain, said after Sunak’s transformation: “If the UK is to be seen as a global leader, it needs leadership. It is right for the prime minister to attend the upcoming COP 27.”

“It is critical for the UK to step up, not only for the sake of the countries bearing the brunt of climate change, but also for its credibility on the world stage,” she said.

During his tenure, Johnson championed renewable energy as a key to the UK’s greener economy and its quest to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

But upon taking office, Sunak cut the position of COP26 chief Alok Sharma from his cabinet.

Sharma said he was “pleased” for Sunak’s change of mind, but Ed Miliband of the opposition Labor Party accused the new leader of being “false”.

“The PM was ashamed to go to COP27 due to an avalanche of disbelief that he would not attend,” Miliband, a Labor climate spokesman, wrote on Twitter.

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“It will avoid the embarrassment of not providing leadership.”

The only Green Party MP in the British Parliament, Caroline Lucas, welcomed Sunak’s announcement.

“But what an embarrassing misstep on the world stage,” she wrote on Twitter. “Let this be a lesson for him – climate leadership is important.

“Now he urgently needs to step up the UK’s ambition in terms of emissions reduction targets and push what we owe to global climate funds.”

Britain came under fire this week after it was found that it had failed to make about $300 million in promised payments to international climate finance bodies.

(This story has not been edited by the NDTV crew and is automatically generated from a shared feed.)

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