Rishi Sunak’s first big U-turn after taking office as UK PM

Rishi Sunak's first big U-turn after taking office as UK PM

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced yesterday that he would attend the summit. (Case)


Britain’s new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced on Wednesday that he would be attending the United Nations climate conference in Egypt after all, after he provoked anger for refusing to attend the global event at the start of his term.

Sunak had argued that “pressing national commitments” would keep him away from COP27 in the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, after inheriting an economic crisis from his predecessor Liz Truss.

But it fueled doubts about Sunak’s interest in the planetary emergency, and critics said the inexperienced leader was passing up an opportunity to rub shoulders with the likes of US President Joe Biden and his European peers.

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

“That’s why I’ll be attending @COP27P next week: to deliver on Glasgow’s legacy of building a safe and sustainable future.”

The Scottish city hosted COP26 under the leadership of Truss’ predecessor Boris Johnson, who made climate change and ambitions of making Britain “net zero” emissions a flagship policy.

Truss cast serious doubt on that pledge with his avowed skepticism about net zero – and blocked King Charles III from attending COP27.

The new monarch is a long-time environmental campaigner, and Sunak’s change of heart could reignite debate over whether Britain should allow him to push the climate case in Egypt.

The monarch is due to host a pre-COP reception at Buckingham Palace on Friday for business leaders, activists and politicians, including US climate change envoy John Kerry.

Sunak’s about-face came after Johnson, in a Sky News interview aired on Tuesday, confirmed he was heading to COP27 at Egypt’s invitation, potentially overshadowing Sunak.

“If the UK wants to be seen as a world leader, it must lead. It is right for the Prime Minister to attend the next COP27,” Tracy Carty, climate manager at Oxfam GB, said after the U-turn. Sunak.

β€œIt is essential that the UK intervenes, not only for the benefit of the countries most affected by climate change, but also for its own credibility on the world stage,” she said.

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

But upon taking office, Sunak demoted COP26 President Alok Sharma from his cabinet.

Sharma said he was “delighted” with Sunak’s change of heart, but Ed Miliband of the opposition Labor party accused the new leader of being a “fake”.

“The Prime Minister was ashamed to go to COP27 because of the torrent of disbelief that he wouldn’t show up,” tweeted Labour’s climate spokesperson Miliband.

“He 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 tweeted. “Let this be a lesson to him – climate leadership matters.

“Now he must urgently increase the UK’s ambition on emissions reduction targets and pay what we owe to the global climate fund.”

Britain drew criticism this week after it emerged it had failed to make some $300 million in promised payments to international climate finance bodies.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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