Rishi Sunak joined the COP27 summit today urging a ‘global mission for clean growth’ – but is facing a growing row about ‘reparations’ to states hit by climate change.
The PM is in Egypt for the gathering – his first test on the foreign stage since entering No10 – having U-turned on his original decision not to attend.
But the event is promising to be tricky as developing countries demand payouts for extreme weather events caused by climate change – at the same time as the UK imposes swingeing austerity and tax rises at home.
Nicola Sturgeon – who has also jetted in for the summit – upped the pressure this morning, saying there is an ‘obligation’ on countries that industrialised first to help ‘deal with the impacts’.
Business Secretary Grant Shapps pointedly refused to rule out the idea, saying the UK is ‘supportive of discussions’ taking place at Sharm El-Sheikh.
However, former PM Boris Johnson told a fringe event that Britain ‘simply doesn’t have the financial resources’ to pay reparations and ‘no country does’.
While admitting that the UK had contributed vast carbon emissions, he argued that the focus should be on finding private investment and technological solutions. ‘Let’s look to the future,’ he added.
Mr Sunak could have an awkward encounter with his predecessor later, although the premier insisted there is ‘no hatchet to be buried’.
In other developments today:
- Mr Sunak said he is ‘disappointed’ with Matt Hancock for taking part in I’m A Celebrity, with Business Secretary Grant Shapps saying he should be helping constituents;
- The PM will hold a showdown with Emmanuel Macron over the Channel migrant crisis later as he pushes for a new deal;
- Mr Johnson will use his own speech in Egypt to attack ‘corrosive cynicism’ on the drive towards Net Zero;
- Mr Sunak has insisted he will not be ‘Scrooge’ after the Autumn Statement on November 17, despite signs Jeremy Hunt will bring in swingeing tax hikes and spending cuts.
Rishi Sunak meets Swedish counterpart Ulf Kristersson during the Cop27 summit at Sharm el-Sheikh
Mr Kristersson bent down at one point, seemingly to scrawl his contact details on a piece of paper
Mr Sunak also greeted Croatian PM Andrej Plenkovic on his first foreign trip since entering Downing Street
Rishi Sunak chats to Israel’s President Isaac Herzog at the COP27 summit in Egypt today
Rishi Sunak met other leaders including the EU’s Ursula von der Leyen at the summit in Egypt today
Mr Sunak with UAE president Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan today
Boris Johnson speculated on the effect of the heat – regarded as evidence of climate change – as he spoke at the COP27 summit in Egypt.
Mr Sunak is facing a difficult test as developing countries demand ‘reparations’ for extreme weather events caused by climate change – as the UK imposing swingeing austerity and tax rises at home
Boris jokes HEATWAVE sparked coup against him
Boris Johnson today joked that the ‘unbearable’ heatwave in London this summer could have triggered the coup against him.
The former PM speculated on the effect of the heat – regarded as evidence of climate change – as he spoke at the COP27 summit in Egypt.
He told the New York Times event that he was acting as the ‘spirit’ of the COP26 summit that was held in Glasgow during his premiership last year.
Mr Johnson was forced to step down from Downing Street after a wave of ministerial resignations – including that of Mr Sunak – made his position untenable.
Following the collapse of the administration formed by successor Liz Truss, he then dramatically pulled out of the Conservative leadership contest at the last moment.
Downing Street said Mr Sunak is looking to set the seal on last year’s Cop26 summit in Glasgow with more than £200million in UK funding to protect forests and invest in ‘green’ technologies.
Mr Sunak’s attendance at the gathering in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh alongside leaders such as US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron marks his first outing on the international stage since becoming PM last month.
In interviews yesterday, shadow climate secretary Ed Mr Miliband stressed it would also be in Britain’s ‘self-interest’ to boost aid to developing countries.
But, while he highlighted both Pakistan and the Maldives as possible recipients of ‘loss and damage’ payments, he denied it would also see China handed cash.
Mr Miliband also shied away from describing payments to developing countries as ‘reparations’ for climate change damage, adding that ‘lots of people are allergic to the term ‘reparations”.
A debate over ‘loss and damage’ is expected to be a key issue at the Cop-27 summit, with developing countries having already made demands ahead of the Egypt gathering.
The G77+ China group of nations are also set to repeat their call for a dedicated financing facility for loss and damage.
Ms Sturgeon said there was an ‘obligation’ on richer countries that have largely caused climate change to help those suffering the impact of it.
She told the BBC: ‘I think this Cop is an opportunity for the global north and the global south to come together and have a proper, grown-up conversation about how we make progress.
‘We’ve got to mitigate climate change, we’ve got to help countries adapt to the impacts of climate change, but as we’ve seen over the past year, not least in Pakistan, there are many parts of the world that are suffering loss and damage now that is irreversible and can’t be mitigated against.
‘There is an obligation in the spirit of solidarity for the richer countries that have largely caused climate change to now make a big effort to help those dealing with the impacts address that.’
In a round of interviews this morning, Business Secretary Grant Shapps dodged on whether the Government accepted the principle of ‘reparations’ to poorer countries.
‘We’re accepting the principle there’s a discussion to be had about this, and actually, in a sense, that’s been accepted all along,’
‘Today for example, the Prime Minister’s announcing over £65 million of assistance to developing countries to be able to produce energy in a sustainable way, there’s been a tacit acceptance.
‘We industrialised first and we appreciate the rest of the world needs to be able to bring themselves along as well.’
Asked if the payments could therefore happen, he added: ‘There is a big international discussion going on, that’s one of the things happening at Cop27 in Egypt and we’re supportive of discussions going on, that’s the British position.’
In his opening address, the PM will say it is essential countries stick to commitments made in Glasgow if the world is to avoid the worst impact of climate change by limiting warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
At the same time, he will argue that the transition away from fossil fuels has the potential to drive growth and deliver jobs in the new green industries of the future, while cutting off funding for Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Mr Sunak is expected to say: ‘The world came together in Glasgow with one last chance to create a plan that would limit global temperature rises to 1.5C. The question today is: can we summon the collective will to deliver on those promises?
‘I believe we can. By honouring the pledges we made in Glasgow, we can turn our struggle against climate change into a global mission for new jobs and clean growth.
‘And we can bequeath our children a greener planet and a more prosperous future. That’s a legacy we could be proud of.’
Before arriving in Sharm El-Sheikh overnight, the Prime Minister said he wanted the UK to be a leader on the issue.
‘We led the world last year when it came to the Cop we hosted, achieved some very important things, we need to cement our leadership,’ he told The Sun.
‘I want to make sure I’m there flying the flag for the UK, being a leader on these issues.’
He also paid tribute to the role of the King, even though he will not be at the gathering following an agreement between the Palace and former prime minister Liz Truss.
‘He has demonstrated incredible leadership on this issue for a very long time. Even though he is not going to be there in person, I know he will be there in spirit. His leadership and influence will be guiding us,’ he said.
Downing Street said Mr Sunak will announce a further £65.5million for the clean energy innovation facility which provides grants to researchers and scientists in developing countries working on clean technologies – from biomass-powered refrigeration in India to lithium-ion batteries in Nigeria.
The UK is also committing £90million for conservation in the Congo Basin rainforest and £65 million to support indigenous and local forest communities as Mr Sunak launches a new group to track commitments made in Glasgow on deforestation.
Mr Sunak shaking hands with new Italian PM Giorgia Meloni today
Rishi Sunak is in Egypt for the COP27 summit having U-turned on his original decision to to attend
The PM will hold a showdown with Emmanuel Macron (pictured today) over the Channel migrant crisis later as he pushes for a new deal
The UK is handing over the baton on the COP summits to Egypt, having hosted the 26th gathering in Glasgow last year
Mr Sunak had originally not intended to travel to Egypt, arguing his priority was to sort out the estimated £60billion black hole in the public finances ahead of Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s autumn statement on November 17.
But he was forced into what opposition parties called a ‘screeching U-turn’ after coming under fire from within his own party, as well as from environmentalists questioning his commitment to the net zero agenda.
Shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband said the Prime Minister should now drop plans to issue more licences for North Sea exploration and end the Government’s opposition to onshore wind.
‘Rishi Sunak is the man who had to be dragged kicking and screaming to go to Cop so it’s simply implausible for him to claim the mantle of climate leadership. Rishi Sunak is a fossil fuel prime minister in a renewable age,’ he said.
The latest round of UN climate talks takes place against a backdrop of devastating extreme weather around the world as well as an energy and cost-of-living crisis driven by President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
The UN has warned that, based on countries’ latest climate action plans, there is currently no credible pathway to meet the 1.5C goal intended to avoid the worst impact of global warming.
Rich countries are also falling short in providing the finance needed to help developing nations adapt to a changing climate and develop cleanly, the UN has warned.