LONDON: UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has hit back at criticism over his decision not to attend the COP27 climate conference in Egypt.
Sunak, who was appointed PM on Monday, said he was “personally committed” to stopping climate change, and that the UK was “unmatched” in its efforts, but claimed he was too busy dealing with his country’s economic crisis to attend the conference.
On a visit to a hospital in Croydon, South London, on Friday, Sunak said: “It’s important to me that as prime minister we leave behind an environment that is better for our children and grandchildren. I’m very passionate about that, I’m very personally committed to it.”
He added: “The leadership that we have shown on the climate is unmatched almost along the world. If you look at what we’ve done in this country, we’re an example for others to follow at the pace in which we’ve reduced climate emissions.
“I just think, at the moment, it’s right that I’m also focusing on the pressing domestic challenges we have with the economy.”
Sunak has come under fire from members of his own Conservative Party for not attending the conference.
Nadine Dorries, the former culture secretary, tweeted: “Global warming is the biggest crisis facing our planet and net zero creates many 1000s of jobs which is good for the economy,” adding: “The prime minister is wrong not to go.”
But Therese Coffey, the environment secretary, called COP27 “just a gathering of people in Egypt,” telling radio station LBC: “The government has postponed the medium-term fiscal plan until Nov. 17 — I know that the prime minister is very keen to work with the chancellor very closely on this important element, and so he’s prioritizing that.”
Downing Street has confirmed that Coffey, as well as Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and Business Secretary Grant Shapps, will all attend the conference in Egypt to represent the UK in the prime minister’s stead.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the former business secretary, also weighed in to support Sunak, saying: “The cost-of-living crisis won’t be solved in Sharm El-Sheikh, where each hotel room for the conference is £2,000 a night.”
Coffey told Sky News: “The big push happened last year in Glasgow. I am not aware that, say, President Biden or President Macron, or any of those other people will be there (in Egypt). It is quite standard practice that every five years is the big political gathering.”