Sunak praised for snubbing ‘indulgent, pointless spectacle’ of COP27
Boris Johnson confirms he will attend COP27 climate conference
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Rishi Sunak has been praised for snubbing the COP27 climate summit, which is due to start in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt this weekend. One commentator noted that previous conferences had failed to reach its main target of cutting coal consumption, leaving it “an indulgent and pointless spectacle”.
Downing Street had previously said the new Prime Minister would not attend due to “other pressing domestic commitments”, but after facing criticism has said the decision was “under review”.
The UK is the current holder of the COP presidency after the 26th annual conference was held in Glasgow in November last year.
The COP26 President, Alok Sharma – who will travel to Sharm El Sheikh to hand the presidency over to his Egyptian counterpart – was among those calling for the PM to attend.
The conference – which runs from November 6 to 18 – finishes the day after Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is expected to announce his autumn budget, after delaying it from Sunday to allow Mr Sunak to go over the plans.
Commenting in Spiked, Andrew Orlowski, a tech journalist-turned-columnist, wrote: “Faced with what may be the deepest recession in a century, a cost-of-living crisis, a migration crisis and energy blackouts, the new prime minister of the world’s sixth-largest economy has plenty on his plate.
“To most people, these issues might sound like they need more urgent attention than a 12-day-long junket in the desert.”
Likening attending the conference to a religious pilgrimage, he suggested it was now being touted as proof of one’s environmental credentials.
The COP summits have their critics in environmentalists, who argue that the agreements reached by world leaders do not go far enough to tackling the causes of climate change.
Specifically, the now-hailed Paris Agreement – reached in 2015 – as well as the pledges made at last year’s COP26 summit failed to make provision limiting coal consumption.
Coal is seen as one of the worst polluters among fossil fuels, releasing more greenhouse gases, smoke and particulates into the atmosphere.
However, these attempts were “thwarted” by China and India – two economies which rely heavily on coal for economic growth.
While COP26 was hailed as a success by many politicians, some climate activists came away disappointed.
Mr Orlowski noted: “For the developing world, cheap energy is vital for raising living standards. And coal is by far the best means to do this.
“This is a problem for climate activists, as coal is also among the most CO2-intensive forms of energy.”
Boris Johnson – the former Prime Minister of only a matter of weeks, who championed the COP26 summit under his premiership – told Sky News this evening that he would be attending the summit, after being invited by Egypt.
Mr Johnson, who made climate change one of the focuses of his leadership, stood by the agreement reached at the COP26 conference.
He said: “I was at the Glasgow COP. Although it’s become unfashionable to talk about it, was a fantastic global success; we did a huge amount of good for the planet.”
However, he too defended Mr Sunak’s qualms about attending at a time of national and international crisis, adding: “As he [Mr Sunak] has pointed out, he’s got a massive amount to do. We’ve got to sort out a huge agenda – that’s what he’s getting on with.”
On Monday, Mr Sunak’s official spokesperson said “any attendance [by the Prime Minister] at COP27 would depend on progress on preparation for that fiscal event, and that work is ongoing.”
They added: “The Prime Minister fully recognises the importance of the COP summit and is fully committed to addressing climate change.”
Asked whether Mr Sunak would attend the same morning on BBC Breakfast, Mark Spencer, the new environment minister, said: “His focus at the moment is dealing with the autumn statement and the government’s response to those global challenges.
“I’m sure if his diary allows he would want to go but at this moment in time don’t quite know if he’s going to be have time to do that.”
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