Speaking at the latest round of UN climate talks in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, the Prime Minister said it was morally right to deliver on promises on tackling climate change – but also economically right, reducing energy dependency and providing new jobs and growth.
Mr Sunak’s comments came after UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres warned at the start of COP27 the world is “on the highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator”.
Mr Guterres said “we are in the fight of our lives – and we are losing”, with greenhouse gases still increasing and temperatures still rising.
And while the world’s attention is gripped by the war in Ukraine – prompting an energy, food and cost-of-living crisis – and other conflicts, Mr Guterres said: “Climate change is on a different timeline and a different scale. It is the defining issue of our age. It is the central challenge of our century. It is unacceptable, outrageous and self-defeating to put it on the back burner.”
He warned: “Today’s crises cannot be an excuse for backsliding or greenwashing.”
The latest round of talks comes amid high geopolitical tensions sparked by Mr Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, worsening extreme weather and calls for rich nations to provide finance for the loss and damage hitting poor countries as a result of the climate crisis.
Leaders including Egyptian president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi called for an end to the war between Russia and Ukraine as they spoke to the opening ceremony of the summit.
Attending a side event at COP27, Boris Johnson warned the fight against climate change had become a “collateral victim” of the invasion of Ukraine, with countries questioning the goal of cutting emissions at a time of soaring energy prices.
And he warned against the risk that “some people will go weak and wobbly” on commitments to cut emissions to zero overall – known at net zero – to tackle the crisis.
Mr Sunak said the UK was keeping its promises on climate action, which include cutting emissions by 68 per cent by 2030 and £11.6 billion for poorer countries to tackle the crisis, including tripling funding for adaptation to £1.5bn as part of the total.
In his speech to the leaders’ summit, the PM said: “Climate security goes hand in hand with energy security. Putin’s abhorrent war in Ukraine and rising energy prices across the world are not a reason to go slow on climate change.
“They are a reason to act faster, because diversifying our energy supplies by investing in renewables is precisely the way to insure ourselves against the risks of energy dependency.
“It’s also a fantastic source of new jobs and growth.”
Mr Sunak’s attendance at the gathering in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh alongside leaders such as US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron, marks his first outing on the international stage since becoming Prime Minister last month.