Breaking: Surprise, surprise – Rishi Sunak is now going to COP27 climate summit

“A screeching U-turn” after “an embarrassing mis-step on the world stage”.

“Let this be a lesson to him – climate leadership matters,” – Caroline Lucas 

“Caving in to criticism is not leadership. Real leadership is seizing your seat at the table. For UK jobs. For clean energy. For our environment,” – Sir Keir Starmer

“This whole debacle has shown the environment is simply not a priority for Rishi Sunak. He’s only going after being embarrassed by Boris Johnson’s attendance.” Wera Hobhouse – Lib Dem climate change spokesperson

www.bbc.co.uk

The prime minister has reversed an earlier decision not to go to the COP27 climate summit in Egypt.

No 10 had said Rishi Sunak was too busy preparing for the 17 November budget to attend the event which opens on Sunday.

But this had been widely criticised by climate campaigners, opposition parties and climate adviser Alok Sharma.

Mr Sunak said there was “no long-term prosperity without action on climate change” or energy security without investment in renewables.

“That’s why I will attend COP27 next week – to deliver on Glasgow’s legacy of building a secure, clean and sustainable future,” he told MPs during Prime Minister’s Questions.

On Tuesday, former prime minister Boris Johnson said he would attend COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh.

The UK hosted last year’s COP (Conference Of The Parties) in Glasgow and it was chaired by Mr Sharma.

Green MP Caroline Lucas welcomed what she called a “screeching U-turn” after “an embarrassing mis-step on the world stage”.

“Let this be a lesson to him – climate leadership matters,” she said.

“We’ve lost a huge amount of credibility by the prime minister dragging his feet on this,” she added.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused the prime minister of acting “in the name of political management” rather than the national interest.

“Caving in to criticism is not leadership. Real leadership is seizing your seat at the table. For UK jobs. For clean energy. For our environment,” he tweeted.

Liberal Democrat climate change spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said: “This whole debacle has shown the environment is simply not a priority for Rishi Sunak. He’s only going after being embarrassed by Boris Johnson’s attendance.”

Downing Street rejected that, saying the prime minister had “always recognised the importance of this summit and indeed tackling climate change more generally”.

He “wanted to make sure we were making good progress on the government’s domestic agenda and the autumn statement in particular,” it said.

After discussions with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt this week, Mr Sunak felt there was “sufficient space to make this trip”, it added.

His official spokesman said the prime minister was hoping to make progress on the commitment to halt deforestation by 2030, and to agree new partnerships on clean and renewable energy.

Mr Sharma, who had said he was “disappointed” Mr Sunak would not be attending, tweeted that he was “delighted” the prime minister would now be going.

Many world leaders including US President Joe Biden and France’s Emmanuel Macron are due to attend the UN event.

Mr Sunak’s predecessor Liz Truss had been set to go and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will also be there.

A number of countries had also criticised Mr Sunak’s earlier decision not to go and questioned the UK’s commitment to tackle the climate crisis.

The Egyptian government, which is hosting COP27, voiced its “disappointment”. Carlos Fuller, Belize’s ambassador to the UN, told The Guardian it looked as if the UK was “washing their hands of leadership”.

Mohammed Nasheed, speaker of the Maldives parliament and a former president, said nothing was more serious than climate change.

King Charles – a long-time champion of environmental causes – will still not be going, despite speaking at COP26 in Glasgow.

No 10 said there was a “unanimous agreement” with Buckingham Palace that the King would not attend.

The annual climate summits are designed to help governments agree measures to limit rises in global temperatures.

This year’s conference takes place from 6 to 18 November, finishing the day after Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is due to set out the government’s tax and spending plans.

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