Analysis: Rishi Sunak could attend COP27 as negative reaction proves more persuasive than threat of climate change

Rishi Sunak could be set to U-turn on his decision not to attend COP27 because governments are seemingly based on reactions, not beliefs.

It is a truth universally acknowledged there is a climate emergency. It is no longer doubted by those in Government.

There is anger over the measures used by climate protesters, but the basic belief of improving things is shared.

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Despite this, however, the newly-appointed Prime Minister was not planning to attend COP27 in Egypt, with Downing Street saying his focus was on “other pressing domestic commitments, including preparations for the autumn budget".

Rishi Sunak has come under pressure for saying he won't attend COP27. Picture: James HardistyRishi Sunak has come under pressure for saying he won't attend COP27. Picture: James Hardisty
Rishi Sunak has come under pressure for saying he won't attend COP27. Picture: James Hardisty

The issue was not one of caring for the environment, but one of optics, with Mr Sunak understandably trying to rebuild his party’s reputation on the economy after the farce of his predecessor Liz Truss.

His environment minister Mark Spencer explained Mr Sunak had "a huge inbox" and would only go “if his diary allows” – an inference he is ready to save the world when it’s convenient.

The announcement prompted a furious reaction from opposition parties, Mr Sunak’s own party, and has also generated an apparent spat with King Charles III, who is now not allowed to attend.

COP26 president Alok Sharma, reduced to tears after India watered down the deal last year, said going would signal the UK's "renewed commitment on this issue" and "allow for engagement with other world leaders".

He is essentially saying not going will harm Britain’s reputation and hinder progress, in a damning intervention for Mr Sunak.

There are even reports former prime minister Boris Johnson might go along, which would make a bad scenario look even worse.

US President Joe Biden, France's Emmanuel Macron and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon are all due to attend, as had been Ms Truss.

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In not going, Mr Sunak invites questions over his party’s record on the environment, despite his planned expansion of the windfall tax.

Now if he U-turns as expected, his reasoning for not going will be challenged, with suddenly the focus no longer on the “pressing domestic commitments” said to occupy him.

Briefing one was more important than the other was completely avoidable, and debate around the decision has become a problem of Mr Sunak’s own making.



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