Rishi Sunak at Cop26

Sunak calls for ‘further and faster’ transition to renewable energy at COP27

Image credit: REUTERS/Phil Noble

Rishi Sunak is set to call for a “global mission for clean growth” during the Cop27 international climate change talks in Egypt.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been participating in the opening of the COP27 international climate-change talks in Egypt, at which he is scheduled to give a speech discussing the UK's strategy for weaning the country off fossil fuels.

“The world came together in Glasgow [COP26] with one last chance to create a plan that would limit global temperature rises to 1.5°C," Sunak is expected to say during his opening address. 

"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."

On the first day of the summit, Sunak said the world must “deliver on the legacy” of last year’s COP26 summit in Glasgow. Downing Street said Sunak will announce £65.5m for a clean energy innovation facility, £90m for conservation in the Congo Basin rainforest, and £65m to support indigenous and local forest communities.

Sunak changed his decision not to attend COP27 after facing public backlash from within his own party, as well as from environmentalists questioning his commitment to the net zero agenda.

The summit marks Sunak's first outing on the international stage since becoming Prime Minister last month.

He is expected to take advantage of the opportunity the summit provides to hold a series of bilateral meetings with other global leaders, including with Italy’s new far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. 

Sunak will also be sharing the international stage with former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is also attending the summit. Speaking on the fringes of the event, Johnson insisted he wanted to play a supportive role to Rishi Sunak, but said he would act as the guardian of the commitments made when he was Prime Minister at COP26 in Glasgow.

“The PM is here," he said. "I’m glad he is here. He made an outstanding speech the other day, he is on absolutely the right lines.

“I’m a foot soldier, a spear carrier. I’m here in a purely supportive role and to remind the world what we did at Glasgow."

Speaking to The Sun on the flight out to Egypt, Sunak returned the praise, saying: “Boris has been a stalwart champion of building a greener future, he deserves praise and credit for that, it's great that he’s there”. 

However, the Prime Minister has faced a chorus of critics who have criticised the government's position at the summit, pointing out the fact that Sunak's administration has not opposed the granting of over 100 new licences for North Sea oil and gas extraction and has delayed decisions regarding the approval of a new coal mine in Cumbria.

“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,” said Ed Miliband, the shadow climate change secretary.

Green MP Caroline Lucas added that Sunak "had no credibility" when speaking about the climate crisis. 

COP27 follows a year of climate-related disasters and record temperatures. The past eight years are on track to be the hottest on record, with sea level rise accelerating; the melting of Europe’s Alpine glaciers shattering records, and devastating floods, drought and heatwaves hitting countries around the world in 2022.

Petteri Taalas, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), has warned that the 1.5°C target is "barely within reach".

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has urged governments at COP27 to answer the planet's "distress signal" with "ambitious, credible climate action". His words followed the publication of a report from the UN's weather and climate body, which showed that the rate at which sea levels are rising has doubled since 1993.

Addressing world leaders at the start of the climate summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, Gutteres said the world is “on the highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator”. 

He added: “We are in the fight of our lives – and we are losing”.   

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