Rishi Sunak to attend COP27 – reversing decision to skip it to focus on economy

Rishi Sunak to attend COP27 - reversing decision to skip it to focus on economy

Rishi Sunak has said he will go to COP27 in Egypt, in a reversal of his previous snub.

In a statement on Twitter, the prime minister said: “There is no long-term prosperity without action on climate change.

“There is no energy security without investing in renewables. That is why I will attend COP27 next week: to deliver on Glasgow’s legacy of building a secure and sustainable future.”

Pressure was growing on the PM to confirm his attendance after Boris Johnson told Sky News yesterday that he would be going.

US President Joe Biden is also planning to attend the UN summit, which runs from 6-18 November.

Mr Sunak initially said he was not going to head to the conference in Sharm El-Sheikh due to “other pressing domestic commitments”.

But the PM faced a raft of criticism, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accusing him of displaying a “failure of leadership” and Greenpeace UK saying he was not taking climate change “seriously enough”.

Within days, Downing Street changed course, saying the PM’s attendance was “under review”, depending on progress around preparation for the economic statement, set for 17 November.

Opposition parties were quick to mock Mr Sunak over his U-turn.

Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner branded it “embarrassing” and said Mr Sunak had to be “dragged kicking and screaming into doing the right thing”.

Ed Miliband, the shadow climate secretary, said: “The prime minister has been shamed into going to COP27 by the torrent of disbelief that he would fail to turn up.

“He is going to avoid embarrassment not to provide leadership.”

The Liberal Democrat’s climate change spokesperson, Wera Hobhouse, claimed the environment is “simply not a priority” for Mr Sunak’s new government and that his is “only going after being embarrassed by Boris Johnson’s attendance”.

And Caroline Lucas, the Green Party’s only MP, said: “Glad to see Sunak’s screeching U-turn on COP27, but what an embarrassing mis-step on the world stage.

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

“Now he urgently needs to increase UK ambition on emission reduction targets & pay what we owe to global climate funds.”

A No 10 source told Sky News that Mr Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt have made “good progress” on the autumn statement after working on it over the weekend and this week.

It is not clear how many days the PM is expected to be away for.

Some Conservative MPs were also urging Mr Sunak to attend the summit, and have welcomed his change of plan.

Alok Sharma, the president of COP26, said he is “delighted” by the news, after previously saying he was “disappointed” the PM had decided not to go.

Chris Skidmore, who is chairing the government’s review into Net Zero, tweeted: “Extremely good news @RishiSunak will continue to champion the UK’s climate leadership and @COP26 legacy with @AlokSharma_RDG.

“Looking forward to also attending@COP27P to highlight how the #NetZeroReview is an opportunity to better deliver greater prosperity and economic growth.”

The UK chaired the previous climate summit, COP26, in Glasgow last year.

World leaders made a series of climate pledges, 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.

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