Following an interview last night in which the US President’s special climate envoy John Kerry told BBC Radio 4 he hoped King Charles would attend November’s COP 27 summit, the government said the decision was up to the king.
Last month, it was announced that King Charles would not be attending COP27 following discussions with then Prime Minister Liz Truss. At the time it was reported that “with mutual friendship and respect, it was agreed that the King would not be present.”
However, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today program this morning, new Environment Secretary Theresa Coffey appeared to put an alternative spin on things. Ms Coffey said: “The government has no opinion on whether the king should go or not, that is the king’s business.”
King Charles, then acting as the Prince of Wales, gave the opening speech at last year’s COP26 summit in Glasgow.
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Attention to King Charles’ presence has become more important after it was announced last night that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will now not be attending Sharm el-Sheikh in person next month.
The COP 27 summit, which is scheduled for November 6-18, is at odds with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s financial report, which has now been pushed back to November 17.
Downing Street attributed Mr Sunak’s absence from the summit to his “immediate domestic commitments, including preparations for the Autumn Budget”. The financial report leaves the government facing a series of tough tax and spending decisions as it seeks to close a hole in the public finances of up to £50bn. This figure is equal to 2% of GDP.
Mr Sunak’s walk to COP27 took on added significance because the UK is currently president of the COP and will remain so until earlier handing over the reins of governance to Egypt in Sharm el-Sheikh.
In response to Mr Sunak’s decision, Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer responded on Twitter, saying: “My Labor Government will demonstrate climate leadership. Britain’s emergence to work with world leaders is an opportunity to seize. Not an event that should be avoided.”
His comments were echoed by Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey, who said: “Rishi Sunak wants to keep the ban on new onshore wind, is not helping families to insulate their homes and is now refusing to attend the CoP summit. His actions run counter to Britain’s leadership in the global fight against climate change.’
Campaign groups also reacted angrily to the news. Fiona Smith, Head of Advocacy and Policy at Christian Aid, said: “It is very unfortunate to see that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has decided not to attend this year’s COP27 climate summit in Egypt. So much for Global Britain.’
Defending the government’s approach to climate change, the new environment secretary, Theresa Coffey, told BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ program this morning that “Britain has a tough climate change agenda in terms of what we can do to reduce climate change. emissions, we organized a very significant COP last year in Glasgow where a lot of progress was made.”
With the UK’s financial report scheduled for October 31, Ms Truss planned to attend COP27 herself. The government will now be represented at the conference by Alok Sharma, who chaired the COP26 summit, along with Environment Secretary Teresa Coffey.
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