Following an interview last night, in which the United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, told BBC Radio 4 that he hoped King Charles would attend November’s COP 27 summit, the government has said that the decision is a matter for the King.
Last month it was announced that King Charles would not attend COP27 after discussions with then prime minister Liz Truss. It was reported at the time that, “with mutual friendship and respect there was agreement that the King would not attend”.
However speaking on the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme, this morning, the new environment secretary, Therese Coffey appeared to put an alternative spin on events. Ms Coffey said, “The government doesn’t have a view on whether the King should go or not, it is a matter for the King”.
King Charles, then in his role as the Prince of Wales, delivered the opening speech at last year’s COP26 summit in Glasgow.
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The focus on King Charles’ attendance has risen in significance after it was announced last night that prime minister Rishi Sunak will now not personally attend the Sharma-el-Sheikh next month.
The COP 27 summit, which is scheduled for 6 to 18 November, clashes with Chancellor’s Jeremy Hunt’s financial statement which has now been moved to 17 November.
Downing Street has attributed Mr Sunak’s absence from the summit to his ‘pressing domestic commitments including preparations for the autumn budget’. Through this financial statement the government is facing a number of difficult decisions on tax and spending as it seeks to close a gap of up to £50 billion hole in the public finances. That figure is equivalent to 2% of GDP.
The move by Mr Sunak on COP27 has added significance because the UK is currently the COP president and will remain so until it formerly hands over the reins to Egypt in Sharm-el-Sheikh.
Responding to Mr Sunak’s decision, the Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer reacted on Twitter to say, “My Labour government will show climate leadership. Britain showing up to work with world leaders is an opportunity to grasp. Not an event to shun”.
His comments were mirrored by the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Ed Davey who said, “Rishi Sunak wants to keep the ban on new onshore wind, is failing to help families insulate their homes and is now refusing to attend the COP summit. His actions fly in the face of the UK’s proud record of leading the global fight against climate change”.
Campaign groups have also reacted angrily to the news. Christian Aid’s Head of Advocacy and Policy, Fiona Smyth, said, “It’s extremely disappointing to see Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has chosen not to attend this year’s COP27 climate summit in Egypt. So much for Global Britain”.
Defending the government’s approach on Climate Change, the new Environment Secretary, Therese Coffey told the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme this morning, that “The UK has set challenging climate change targets in terms of what we are able to do in reducing climate change emissions, we hosted a very significant COP last year in Glasgow, where a lot of progress were made”.
With the UK’s financial statement previously planned for 31 October, Ms Truss had herself planned to attend COP27. The government will now be represented at the conference, by Alok Sharma, who presided over the COP26 summit, alongside environment secretary, Therese Coffey..